Although the campus remained quiet for this year’s commencement ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic, University of Colorado (CU) School of Medicine graduates celebrated at home with family and friends. This year’s new (pomp and) circumstance brought the School of Medicine community together virtually to celebrate the class of 2020 and their resilience during this time of adversity.
“While the coronavirus pandemic has kept us from holding in-person commencement ceremonies this spring, today is no less special or less significant,” said CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman. “Indeed today, we celebrate not only the tremendous achievements that you’ve brought to this milestone, but also your determination and adaptability over the final months of your education.”
The virtual ceremony and convocation highlighted the class of 2020 and their many accomplishments. The event featured remarks from keynote speaker and former Assistant Dean for Admissions and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Nichole G. Zehnder, MD.
Zehnder, who now serves as the Associate Dean for Educational Strategy at Washington University School of Medicine, spoke about three invaluable lessons that she wanted to pass along to the class of 2020 during this critical time that included showing up, asking tough questions and never stop using your imagination.
“All of your showing up and questioning and imagining culminates today on this milestone,” said Zehnder. “I’m more proud of you than you will even know.”
“Countless patients had someone looking out for them, a shoulder to cry on, a person they knew who would listen to their story all because you were involved in their care. The world and our own lives were better because of the people you all are.” - Oliver Bawmann
Though graduates couldn’t take to the stage to celebrate, many filled social media with photos in their caps and gowns. Student speaker and medical student council executive president, Oliver Bawmann, spoke about the privilege of meeting classmates who successfully merged kindness and tenacity with compassion and brilliance to become lifelong friends. Bawmann also highlighted how their relationship as a class transcended and ultimately benefited the patients they cared for.
“Countless patients had someone looking out for them, a shoulder to cry on, a person they knew who would listen to their story all because you were involved in their care,” said Bawmann. “The world and our own lives were better because of the people you all are.”
To close the ceremony, John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, Vice Chancellor of Health Affairs, Dean, School of Medicine spoke about how science matters in the midst of the pandemic and the important voice the medical community has.
“The medical profession has emerged in this pandemic as an important voice, bringing truth and evidence to the public at large,” said Reilly. “The medical profession, our colleagues and all of the disciplines across medicine, have risen to this challenge with enormous courage, at great personal risk and have embodied all the admirable aspects of our profession.”
Reilly also spoke about the importance of working together as a team in today’s healthcare environment and how over the last three months the campus has been a vivid example of teamwork.
“If two months ago you had asked me whether we could scale up our telehealth visits by 100-fold in a two-week period of time and moved classes online, I would have told you it was impossible,” said Reilly. “And yet we have done all those things and more, in part by pulling together as a team and engaging across all of our communities, including our students.”
To conclude the celebration, the nearly 170 graduates came together to participate in the time-honored tradition of reciting the Colorado Physician’s Oath with families watching from home via Zoom.