New Physicians Graduate Virtually In The Middle Of A Pandemic

The Class of 2020 at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine.

“I will be an advocate for patients in need and strive for justice in the care of the sick.” No other time in recent history do the words resonating from the Hippocratic Oath convey the importance of the vow that all physicians solemnly swear to hold and value throughout their careers.

On Friday, May 1, 63 members of the Class of 2020 at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine made that vow virtually, in unison, as they were conferred the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. Family, friends, faculty, staff and others celebrated the occasion with the graduating class using a web-based virtual gathering.

More than half the Class of 2020 will start their residency program in a state that is currently considered a hotspot for COVID-19, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seven of the graduates are headed to New York; others will be going to New Jersey, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Louisiana and Texas. In line with the medical school’s mission, 21 of the 63 members of the Class of 2020 will conduct their residency in Florida (34 percent), with 25 members who will specialize in primary care, including family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics (40 percent). One of the graduates will serve as a physician in the U.S. Army.

Relevant to the current pandemic, one of the most popular residencies among FAU’s Class of 2020 is emergency medicine; eight of the 63 graduates (13 percent) will begin training in emergency medicine this July. The class also matched in other highly specialized fields that are among the most competitive in the match process, including neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation, urology, among others.

“Congratulations! Today marks an extraordinary accomplishment for each of you, and you are achieving this feat at an extraordinary time in our collective history, as doctors across the globe work alongside other scientists, healthcare workers and public health officials to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Phillip Boiselle, dean of FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine, who addressed the Class of 2020 virtually. “Today, you officially become doctors, and soon you will be among those on the front lines directly serving patients in need. You are well prepared for this challenge and for the many others that you will face during your medical careers. I wish you all the best as you begin your professional journeys as humanistic physicians.”

Dr. Douglas J. McConnell, an alumnus in the inaugural Class of 2015 in FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine, delivered the keynote address. McConnell practices internal medicine/pediatrics in Tampa.

“I certainly did not think I would be giving the commencement address from my bedroom, but here we are. Graduating during a pandemic is very different than it was for me in 2015,” McConnell said. “The silver lining behind COVID-19 is that there are no experts. Given enough time and effort, a motivated resident can be just as helpful as a seasoned attending. Think about all you have been through in the last few years and how much you have learned. Most importantly, you have learned to assimilate challenges into knowledge. This is why today, you are being called a ‘doctor.’ Congratulations on this achievement and good luck on the road ahead.”

Among the various Florida institutions where FAU’s Class of 2020 placed are the University of Florida College of Medicine-Shands Hospital, Gainesville; the University of Central Florida College of Medicine/GME Consortium, Orlando; the University of Florida College of Medicine, Jacksonville; Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Miami; Mt. Sinai Medical Center, Miami Beach; Nemours Children’s Hospital, Orlando; AdventHealth Orlando; Memorial Healthcare System, Pembroke Pines; the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, Tampa; and FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine.

The Class of 2020 also placed in several top institutions nationally, including the Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta; the University of Michigan Hospital, Ann Arbor; the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston; Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Washington, D.C; New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center; Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis; Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles; and Nationwide Hospital, Columbus.

“Class of 2020, you are entering the medical profession at an unprecedented time in the delivery of healthcare in Florida and throughout our nation,” said Dr. Stuart L. Markowitz, senior associate dean of student affairs and admissions in FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine. “You have been preparing for this special day for years, and now, you are ready to continue to the next phase of your medical journey. We could not be more proud of your accomplishments, and we wish you much success in your careers as physicians. Congratulations.”

FAU President John Kelly provided congratulatory remarks and Dr. Bret Danilowicz, FAU provost and vice president for academic affairs, conferred the degrees. Dr. Sarah Wood, senior associate dean for medical education in FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine announced the candidates, and Markowitz and Dr. Jennifer Caceres, assistant dean for student affairs in FAU’ Schmidt College of Medicine, initiated the Hippocratic Oath.

FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine is one of approximately 152 accredited medical schools in the U.S. The college was launched in 2010, when the Florida Board of Governors made a landmark decision authorizing FAU to award the M.D. degree. With more than 70 full- and part-time faculty and more than 1,300 affiliate faculty, the college matriculates 64 medical students each year and has been nationally recognized for its innovative curriculum.