School of Medicine welcomes newest class at virtual induction ceremony

T

he Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine community came together on Monday to welcome the Class of 2024 in a virtual induction ceremony.

Bruce Koeppen, dean of the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, began the ceremony by noting that his welcome address is going to be different than years past given the global pandemic.

"I don't know what you envisioned the start of medical school would be like, but I'm pretty sure this was not it," said Koeppen. "I will acknowledge that teaching and learning — at least for a while — will be different from what you are used to. But let me reassure you that different does not mean inferior; your faculty and staff are dedicated and committed to your education."

Koeppen predicted that there will be frustrating and challenging moments — whether when Zoom sessions freeze or the virtual microscope doesn't work, but urged the incoming class to have patience and understanding.

Koeppen went on to add that as the newest members of the School of Medicine family, the Class of 2024, will be called upon — along with the other students, alumni, faculty and staff — to take action against bias, racism and injustice.

"You are entering the medical profession at an unprecedented time and as a result, it presents you with wonderful opportunities, the pandemic and the changes that must happen to eliminate racial and social injustices will reshape our society and our profession," said Koeppen. "You will have the opportunity to be part of the great changes that will come and many of you will have the opportunity to be leaders in this effort. You might not realize it yet, but you could not have picked a better time to start on your path to becoming a physician."

President Judy Olian welcomed the class next, saying that Quinnipiac is grateful and privileged to have the opportunity to help them is their new journey.

"You collectively represent pretty much everything that Quinnipiac values in pursuit of admission," said Olian. "Your commitment to excellence in academics is evident in your strong grades and test scores. You come to Quinnipiac having earned degrees from some of the world's top universities. You also represent the diversity that Quinnipiac relies on to enrich our collective thinking and experience."

The Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine Class of 2024 is made up of 45 women and 50 men, with more than 25% coming from underrepresented populations in medicine. Members of the class represent 16 states and 50 undergraduate institutions. Fifteen members of the class were born and grew up outside of the United States.

"The world needs you more than ever," said Olian. "We're facing a shortage of more than 120,000 physicians by the end of this decade. Ten thousand baby boomers are turning 65 every day, putting much greater demand on our health systems to care for an aging population. Six in 10 Americans currently live with at least one chronic disease, many of which are preventable or can be controlled with the help of future physicians, like you. Your commitment to lift the well-being of communities of the world has never been more needed or more appreciated."

As a part of the induction ceremony, the incoming students received a Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine pin which will serve as a visual representation of everything that the students have accomplished to get where they are today. It also represents the work, sacrifices and dedication that lie ahead and it is a symbol of aspiration.

Lyuba Konopasek, senior associate dean for education and professor of medical sciences, introduced the pins and spoke of the meaning behind them.

“The medical profession defines us; it unites us. It gives us power and authority and tremendous responsibility,” said Konopasek. “As you take these first steps toward becoming a doctor, you will be carrying forward a rich tradition, which includes the ideals of the medical profession. I charge you to be sure to shape that tradition and those ideals in your own way. The world is waiting for you and needs you.”

Mark Yeckel, associate dean for admissions and professor of medical sciences, described the backgrounds of the students in the incoming class, saying they are very strong and well above average for matriculating students, as well as very well-rounded.

"Looking beyond all of these accomplishments, I think what you've demonstrated to us that you're engaged citizens of the world, you have grit and you're passionate about what you do," said Yeckel. "It's unfortunate we can't be together physically, but I think that when we can all be together in the same room, preferably with our families, we are going to have a celebration for the ages — and I look forward to it."

As a part of the virtual ceremony, Kim-Thu Pham, associate dean for student affairs, introduced each student with a brief statement or quote of special meaning to them.

Alexandra Desir, MD '21, provided some final words of advice to the incoming class. She stressed the importance of remembering who they are — and remaining empathetic and compassionate.

"If I asked you why you wanted to become a doctor, the majority of your answers centered around being of service to others," said Desir. "I task you with remembering that this inspiration should extend well past your patient interactions. It should include your classmates, your Netter community and even the greater Connecticut communities in which you have all come to inhabit."