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Ladies and gentlemen, meet your newest M.D.s

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May 19, 2018

Toward the end of this morning’s commencement, after the graduates had received their diplomas and the audience had given them one more ovation, Dean John P. Fogarty looked out from the lectern and issued this challenge: “Is that all you got?”

Suddenly, there came a sustained roar that shook Ruby Diamond Concert Hall down to her baseboards. On and on these families and friends cheered for their favorite brand-new M.D.s, the 108 graduates of the FSU College of Medicine’s Class of 2018.

Also during that two-hour celebration, nine grads received their military promotions. Sixteen grads were “hooded” by relatives – several of whom were College of Medicine alumni. Plus the 10 members of this year’s Bridge class received their master’s degrees.

Commencement speaker Michael Sweeney told two powerful anecdotes about patients he had treated, then took a swipe at politicians – before remembering with a sheepish grin that FSU President John Thrasher was himself a former politician. “Reformed politician,” Thrasher said with a smile when he introduced himself later.

As always, Thrasher and everyone else in attendance seemed to believe that this was the absolute best way to spend the third Saturday in May.

The graduates crossed the stage in six groups, representing the six regional campuses where they had spent their third and fourth years: Daytona Beach, Fort Pierce, Orlando, Pensacola, Sarasota and Tallahassee. One by one, the dean from their campus (or an M.D. family member) stood behind them and brought the hood down over their head and onto their shoulders. Then they received their diploma and posed for a photo with Thrasher and Fogarty.

In his introduction, Fogarty told the graduates: “You blessed us with your diversity, where you came from, your stories and your aspirations. Again with your class, 2018 illustrates the effectiveness of all of our efforts with pipeline and outreach programs, resulting in a remarkable degree of diversity for our school. In July 2016, out of 136 medical schools in the [Association of American Medical Colleges], the FSU College of Medicine was the only one that ranked in the top five in enrollment for both Black and Hispanic students. We are very proud of you.

“Your reputation for excellence and your support in recruiting the next classes to follow you have paid great dividends. The FSU College of Medicine has been ranked in the top three of most competitive medical schools in the country for the past two years, and we’ve had to make fewer offers to fill our classes than any other medical school in Florida.”

During his address, Class President Mark Micolucci thanked family and friends, the College of Medicine and his classmates. And he spoke of lessons learned.

“All of our examinations teach us that there is only one correct answer,” he said. “In the real world – patients are not our tests, and they do not offer multiple-choice options. We will not always be right or have the right answer, and sometimes we have to learn to be comfortable in the unknown, but never cease to try to solve it. We have to remain humble in the fact that we are not extraordinary humans doing ordinary things. Instead, we are ordinary humans who have been given the opportunity to do extraordinary things.”

Sweeney got plenty of laughs with his presentation (search below for the word “digital”), but he also prepared these new physicians for the tough moments that lie before them. And he offered words of advice, such as:

“So you now make the transition from student to doctor. Your role will change and you will be afforded unique access to other people’s lives, and with this comes a great deal of responsibility. You will become accountable for everything you do as a physician and, hopefully, you will take with you a clear understanding of patient-centeredness – which means it’s no longer about you. As you gain skills and knowledge in your area of interest, people will begin to recognize your abilities and authority. Resist the arrogance that may come with this. Arrogance threatens good patient care and can cloud your decision-making, while confidence, on the other hand, is an essential quality for a physician. Learn the difference.”

The day before graduation, 42 students were honored at an awards assembly in the Durell Peaden Auditorium. Arnold Abud led the class with five recognitions, including the equivalent of the MVP award. Lauren Jeck, Juno Lee, Tatianna Pizzutto and Kelly Shay had four apiece. (See awards summary below.)

Also recognized in the graduation program were four College of Medicine graduate students who earned a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences during the 2017-2018 academic year: Susan I. Daraiseh, Lataisia Cherie' Jones, Samantha Kay Saland-Duclot and Katherine Nicole Wright.

Soon, the new M.D.s will be heading off for the residency programs where they’ll spend the next three or more years. Meanwhile, in 10 days the newly graduated Bridge students will be back in school – this time as members of the College of Medicine’s Class of 2022.

And for those keeping score … the med school now has 1,255 alumni.
 

Photo gallery: Class of 2018 graduation and awards ceremony 

Graduation video 
 

CLASS OF 2018 HONOREES
COLLEGE OF MEDICINE AWARDS

  • J. Ocie Harris Outstanding Student Award: Arnold Abud
  • Myra M. Hurt Leadership in Medicine Award: Tatianna Pizzutto
  • Mission Award: Ann Loraine Roc
  • Nobles/Brown Altruism in Medicine Award: Juno Lee
  • Student Research Award: Kristin Magrini
  • Robin McDougall Access to Care Award: Kirsten Dowling
  • Linda Stine Interprofessional Leadership Award: David Chase West
     

SPECIALTY AWARDS

  • Anesthesiology Associates of Tallahassee Award: Amanda Berry and Stephanie Poteau
  • ACEP Medical Student Professionalism and Service Award: Matthew Klein
  • Excellence in Emergency Medicine Award: Malav Patel
  • Outstanding Graduate in Family Medicine: Tatianna Pizzutto
  • Florida Geriatrics Society Award for Outstanding Student: David Chase West
  • Internal Medicine Award: Arnold Abud
  • American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists District XII 2017 Outstanding Medical Student Achievement Award: Kelly Shay and Katherine Somodi-Stephenson
  • Merritt Ryals Clements, M.D., Award for Excellence in Obstetrics and Gynecology: Ann Loraine Roc
  • Excellence in Pediatrics Award: Joseph Bernardo
  • AACAP Psychiatry Award: Julia Teytelbaum
  • The Edward L. Bradley, M.D., Excellence in General Surgery Award: Kevin Choy
  • The Ben J. Kirbo, M.D., Outstanding Student in Breast Cancer Reconstructive Surgery Award: Katherine Gonzalez
  • The Robert D. Snyder, M.D., Award for Outstanding Student in General Surgery with a Focus on Breast Cancer: Lauren Jeck
  • American Medical Women’s Association Glasgow-Rubin Achievement Citation (women in top 10 percent of graduating class): Lauren Jeck, Kelly Shay, Katherine Somodi-Stephenson, Savannah Williams
  • American Medical Women’s Association Outstanding Graduate: Emily Harlan Stetler


REGIONAL CAMPUS DEANS’ AWARDS
(For the most outstanding student at each College of Medicine regional campus)

  • Daytona Beach: Lauren Jeck
  • Fort Pierce: Nicholas Karr
  • Orlando: Arnold Abud
  • Pensacola: Jeffrey Reese
  • Sarasota: Juno Lee and Tatianna Pizzutto
  • Tallahassee: Drew Williams


HONOR SOCIETIES
Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society inductees (the only national honor medical society): Arnold Abud, Kevin Choy, Tracey Cook, Christopher Garrett, Shawn Hassani, Lauren Jeck, Juno Lee, Natalie Marenghi, Mauricio Parra-Ferro, Ariella Price, Jeffrey Reese, Patrick Rushford, Kelly Shay, Katherine Somodi-Stephenson, Eric Thomas, Brett Tooley, Stephanie Tran, Savannah Williams, Colin Zuchowski

Gold Humanism Honor Society inductees (“excellence in clinical care, leadership, compassion, and dedication to service”): Arnold Abud, Benjamin Appelo, Kirsten Dowling, Clayton Fuqua, Juno Lee, Kristin Magrini, Sangeeta Nair-Collins, Tatianna Pizzutto, Jeffrey Reese, Brittany Schafer, Stephanie Tran, Drew Williams, Savannah Williams (Plus faculty members Harry Black, M.D., Daryl Crenshaw, M.D., and John P. Fogarty, M.D.)


MILITARY PINNING CEREMONY
Promotion in rank for students in the armed services:

  • Air Force – Benjamin Appelo
  • Army – Kevin Hudson, Patrick Rushford, Kelly Shay
  • Navy – Kenneth Dalton III, Clayton Fuqua, Eric Krivensky, Stephanie Tran, Amanda Wilder


SUMMARY OF STUDENT HONOREES (in alphabetical order)

  • Arnold Abud: J. Ocie Harris Outstanding Student Award, Internal Medicine Award, Orlando Regional Campus Dean’s Award, Gold Humanism Honor Society, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Benjamin Appelo: Gold Humanism Honor Society, Air Force promotion
  • Joseph Bernardo: Excellence in Pediatrics Award
  • Amanda Berry: Anesthesiology Associates of Tallahassee Award
  • Kevin Choy: The Edward L. Bradley, M.D., Excellence in General Surgery Award, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Tracey Cook: Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Kenneth Dalton III: Navy promotion
  • Kirsten Dowling: Robin McDougall Access to Care Award, Gold Humanism Honor Society
  • Clayton Fuqua: Gold Humanism Honor Society, Navy promotion
  • Christopher Garrett: Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Katherine Gonzalez: The Ben J. Kirbo, M.D., Outstanding Student in Breast Cancer Reconstructive Surgery Award
  • Emily Harlan Stetler: American Medical Women’s Association Outstanding Graduate
  • Shawn Hassani: Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Kevin Hudson: Army promotion
  • Lauren Jeck: Daytona Beach Regional Campus Dean’s Award, The Robert D. Snyder, M.D., Award for Outstanding Student in General Surgery with a Focus on Breast Cancer, American Medical Women’s Association Glasgow-Rubin Achievement Citation, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Nicholas Karr: Fort Pierce Regional Campus Dean’s Award
  • Matthew Klein: ACEP Medical Student Professionalism and Service Award
  • Eric Krivensky: Navy promotion
  • Juno Lee: Nobles/Brown Altruism in Medicine Award, Sarasota Regional Campus Dean’s Award, Gold Humanism Honor Society, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Kristin Magrini: Student Research Award, Gold Humanism Honor Society
  • Natalie Marenghi: Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Sangeeta Nair-Collins: Gold Humanism Honor Society
  • Mauricio Parra-Ferro: Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Malav Patel: Excellence in Emergency Medicine Award
  • Tatianna Pizzutto: Myra M. Hurt Leadership in Medicine Award, Outstanding Graduate in Family Medicine, Sarasota Regional Campus Dean’s Award, Gold Humanism Honor Society
  • Stephanie Poteau: Anesthesiology Associates of Tallahassee Award:
  • Ariella Price: Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Jeffrey Reese: Pensacola Regional Campus Dean’s Award, Gold Humanism Honor Society, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Ann Loraine Roc: Mission Award, Merritt Ryals Clements, M.D., Award for Excellence in Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Patrick Rushford: Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, Army promotion
  • Brittany Schafer: Gold Humanism Honor Society
  • Kelly Shay: American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists District XII 2017 Outstanding Medical Student Achievement Award, American Medical Women’s Association Glasgow-Rubin Achievement Citation, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, Army promotion
  • Katherine Somodi-Stephenson: American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists District XII 2017 Outstanding Medical Student Achievement Award, American Medical Women’s Association Glasgow-Rubin Achievement Citation, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Julia Teytelbaum: AACAP Psychiatry Award
  • Eric Thomas: Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Brett Tooley: Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Stephanie Tran: Gold Humanism Honor Society, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, Navy promotion
  • David Chase West: Linda Stine Interprofessional Leadership Award, Florida Geriatrics Society Award for Outstanding Student
  • Amanda Wilder: Navy promotion
  • Drew Williams: Tallahassee Regional Campus Dean’s Award, Gold Humanism Honor Society
  • Savannah Williams: American Medical Women’s Association Glasgow-Rubin Achievement Citation, Gold Humanism Honor Society, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
  • Colin Zuchowski: Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society

Faculty members:

  • Harry Black, M.D.: Gold Humanism Honor Society
  • Daryl Crenshaw, M.D.: Gold Humanism Honor Society
  • John P. Fogarty, M.D.: Gold Humanism Honor Society


GRADUATION SPEECHES
Commencement Address
Michael Sweeney, M.D.

I would like to thank all of you for the opportunity to speak at this very special event. I am honored.
To the graduates, congratulations. You have now completed the easy part of your medical education.
When you leave the building today, you will have earned the right and will forever be called “Doctor.” This is a title of respect which each of you has earned as you struggled through the last four years, committed to learning and dedicated to preparing yourself for the next phase of this lifelong learning process. The title “Doctor” comes with power and privilege, and you will learn to use both for the benefit of your future patients.

When I began preparing this talk, I decided to survey people on what they might want to hear and began with our dean, who said, “Keep it short.” I next asked a member of the graduating class and she said, “Just don’t bore us. Since there was no conflict in those responses, I stopped asking and abandoned the study. I know you will criticize the validity of my sample and the statistics. The N was too small, no power in the study, lack of evidence, etc., but actually that will bring me to the main point I hope to make today: Being a true physician is not just about evidence and science.

You all have learned the science and the importance of evidence-based medicine. You can access all the major resources, analyze research, follow algorithms and draw appropriate conclusions. You have natural expertise in using digital resources and records when many of us still expect the word “digital” in medicine to be followed by “rectal exam.” These are critical skills that will serve you and your future patients well, but they are not going to be enough to make you into a truly great physician.

What will get you to that place is the series of experiences and encounters with patients you will have through your residencies and, more importantly, once you reach independent practice. Patients will always be your best teachers, so never stop learning from them as you move through your career.

I’m going to tell you a couple of stories from my journey that, given my background, will be surgical in nature, but these were events that shaped my professional career and my understanding of the roles we take on in our patients’ lives. Hopefully there will be a message in them that will help you appreciate your own unique experiences as they occur.

First I will tell you about a young man who came to me in my first or second year of practice. He was in his late 20s or early 30s, had an executive-type position in a local business, and presented with his wife and two young sons in tow. Really a nice young family with their whole future ahead of them. As we evaluated him, it was evident that he had appendicitis and needed to go to the OR that afternoon. I explained all the right stuff to him and his wife, and they agreed and even made a “fun” event out of it, joking with the boys about Daddy’s operation and how he was going to get better soon, etc.

You can probably see where this is going. When I opened the abdomen there was no sign of appendicitis, but I did find the entire cavity filled with a widespread, malignant tumor that proved to be a sarcoma, a type of cancer we had no effective treatment for at the time and, really, still don’t. I left the OR knowing this bright, happy young man would never have another day in his life when he felt well. He would never get to teach his boys to fish, play baseball, grow into men, or get to grow old with the love of his life.

You can imagine the walk out to the waiting room to talk with his wife, knowing with each step I came closer to destroying her world. This is tough duty, the hard part of being a physician, the part each of you will encounter and learn from and grow from. The necessary part that will help you develop into the type of physician that will care for and support patients and families as they deal with tragedies and outcomes none of you want ever to see. It doesn’t matter what specialty you have chosen or what type of practice you envision, these are the events that will stay with you and change you forever. But I know you, I know this is what you signed up for, this is what each of you want to do, this is the challenge to which you will bring your unique combination of knowledge, skill, caring and compassion, and I know you will be really good at it. I know you will become the type of physician we all would want with us in a crisis. But this is the hardest part of our job, no denying that.

Another story with a different lesson:

Early on a Saturday morning, I met a very ill woman who I thought of at the time as “elderly” but now realize she was middle-aged, probably in her late 60s. As she became sicker at home, she resisted coming into the hospital, afraid it might be something serious. In fact, she was devastatingly ill with an acute “surgical” abdomen – meaning we had to take her directly to the operating room, where we found she had colon cancer and a perforated or ruptured colon. A severe, life-threatening situation in a woman I had met only an hour or so before, but we corrected what we could and did all the “right” things surgically and got her to the Intensive Care Unit. The infection persisted, sepsis caused her vital signs to dwindle and I had to keep her on three different drug infusions just to keep her blood pressure measurable and keep her alive. I looked for help but at that time, there were no “critical care” specialists in the area and really no other doctors I could call. That meant it was up to me to stay with her through the weekend, doing my other work of a call weekend, running home for a quick shower and change of clothes, but always returning to check on her and make adjustments in fluids, meds, ventilation or whatever.

Finally, by Monday morning she began to show signs of stabilization, and by the time I went home that evening, she was looking a little better. In the end, she did fully recover and I followed her regularly for five or six years while she enjoyed her life and stayed well. That’s when she came back, this time with breast cancer, but we took care of her again and she went on to live another nine or 10 years, cancer-free and independent. Of course, I got to know this lady very well over all those years, and she was just a great person who taught me more about the doctor-patient relationship than perhaps anyone else. I learned from her that every patient deserves our best effort every time, regardless of how tired we are, how long the odds are against success, or how harshly tested our skills and knowledge become in any case. I learned when my patient is in need I would never give up, never give in.

So you now make the transition from student to doctor. Your role will change and you will be afforded unique access to other people’s lives, and with this comes a great deal of responsibility. You will become accountable for everything you do as a physician and, hopefully, you will take with you a clear understanding of patient-centeredness – which means it’s no longer about you. As you gain skills and knowledge in your area of interest, people will begin to recognize your abilities and authority. Resist the arrogance that may come with this. Arrogance threatens good patient care and can cloud your decision-making, while confidence, on the other hand, is an essential quality for a physician. Learn the difference.

Remember the health care team, other professionals you will depend on and who will help your patients in many ways you cannot. Be a part of that team but never forget that all effective teams require leadership, and that will become your responsibility. Never cede leadership when you have been trained and prepared for it. Your patients will be counting on you.

Respect your colleagues and their expertise, understand and get comfortable with your role in the health care system, which has certainly evolved greatly over the years. As you move through the next stages of your career, you will encounter many people who want to tell you how to practice and what you should or should not do for your patients, what you can or cannot do for them. These directives will come from insurance companies and government bureaucrats, nurses and therapists, administrators and attorneys, and worst of all: politicians. You will be forced to use dysfunctional electronic record systems and practice defensive medicine in a market with an irrational and ineffective liability culture. Computers, devices, screens and other technology will continue to invade the exam room and urge you to focus on them rather than on the individual who has come seeking your care and your help. Patients, also thanks to technology, will come in better informed and with better questions, although diagnosis by Google will likely become more of an issue.

Despite all this, keep in mind that your patients don’t really trust technology, they trust you. Patients aren’t digital creations, programmed to follow some protocol. They’re analog, nonlinear, thinking, feeling beings who demand and deserve respect and intelligence from us, from their doctors. Focus on them, dedicate yourself to their interests and you’ll be OK.

So one last bit of advice as you embark on the scary first days of your postgraduate education:
Stay calm and don’t kill the patients.


CLASS PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS
Mark Micolucci, M.D.

One of the most daunting tasks of medical school for me wasn’t the hours studied or the exams I have taken – it was actually writing this speech. It’s true. I sat for a long time, struggling to find the words to summarize the entire journey of medical school in just a few minutes. But, I guess that’s what medical school is all about – trying to cram in as much information as possible within a very short amount of time. That being said, I will listen to the advice of some of my attendings and follow the KISS method – “keep it simple, stupid.”

First I want to speak about our families and friends. Look at how many people showed up to support us today. I know that all of our parents are so proud and happy for us… to finally be off of their bank accounts. It didn’t take that long, did it? But seriously, we owe so much of our success to our family and friends who supported us on this journey. One person cannot complete this process on their own. Thank you to our loved ones who have always been there for us. We may not have always been the easiest people to be around, but you stuck with us and listened to hours and hours of boring medical stories that probably aren’t nearly as interesting as “Grey’s Anatomy.” I know that without my family, I wouldn’t be standing up here today. And I am certain that I am not the only person in my class that feels this way.

To everyone that makes up the College of Medicine, thank you for believing in us. For some of us, including myself, you were the only people who gave us the opportunity to follow our dreams. You believed in us when others didn’t and for that we are eternally grateful. We owe a lot of who we are to the College of Medicine. You not only taught us the medical knowledge, but you helped turn us into the people we are today. We learned a lot of lessons in the past four years, but the most important ones cannot be found in any textbook.

One of the hardest lessons I learned throughout the process of medical school is that despite how much we think we know, and no matter what information we are able to access, there will be times when we will still not have the answer. All of our examinations teach us that there is only one correct answer. In the real world – patients are not our tests, and they do not offer multiple-choice options. We will not always be right or have the right answer, and sometimes we have to learn to be comfortable in the unknown, but never cease to try to solve it. We have to remain humble in the fact that we are not extraordinary humans doing ordinary things. Instead, we are ordinary humans who have been given the opportunity to do extraordinary things.

The College of Medicine also taught us that medicine is a service to our patients. We learned that the single most important thing to know about your patient is not something you find in a book or medical record – it is the essence of your patient and who they are as a person. Each patient has their own story that can only be found by asking questions and listening face to face. In a world of technology and deadlines, we cannot let this tool in medicine become underutilized. Many of us will be there on the greatest day of our patients’ lives, and many will also be there for the worst day of their lives. The art of medicine is being there for our patients in any of these circumstances.

Lastly, medical school taught us about ourselves. We learned to be resilient and trust ourselves. We learned what makes us stronger and who we really are. Our faculty and staff always believed in us, even when we struggled to believe in ourselves. We are all stronger and better people for going through this process.

Finally, it’s time to address the Class of 2018. You all are an amazing group of human beings. When I came here for school I expected to leave with a diploma and a career in medicine. I didn’t expect to find some of my best friends.

It takes a special person to sign up for this craziness we call medical school. If nothing else, you really learn a lot about your classmates in med school. Over the past four years we have seen each other at our best and at our worst. What I learned about my classmates is that this group has some of the finest people I have ever known. Everyone in this class sacrificed enormous amounts of time and energy so that they could take care of others’ needs.

On top of that, this class supported each other through the process. I will never forget when my grandmother passed away our first week of medical school. I didn’t really know anyone in the class. When I came back from the funeral I found a card in my locker with well wishes from so many people who hardly knew me, but were there to support me. That will always stick with me.
We all hit some rough patches in school, but there was always someone there to support us in our time of need. Whenever we had doubts in our ability to learn medicine, someone was there to help us study. Whenever we questioned if we were good enough to make it through med school, someone was there to ensure us we were. Whenever we questioned why we were going through all of this trouble, someone was there to remind us of the purpose. Beyond teaching us medical knowledge, medical school has trained us to care for others. And it all started with caring for our classmates.

It is for this reason I have no doubt that the Class of 2018 has the tools required to care for patients in their time of need. I know that you all will continue to make your families, the College of Medicine, and peers proud. And I know that you all have made me extremely proud to call you my classmates, my colleagues, and most importantly my friends.


GRADUATION INVOCATION
Brittany Schafer, M.D.

Dear Lord, we are so grateful to be here today in Your Presence. Thank you for this special day to share with family, friends, classmates, and mentors. You have blessed us so abundantly. Thank you for carrying us through these past four years. You are the reason we have been able to accomplish this at all. Thank you for the people you have surrounded us with who have supported us, cheered us on, and encouraged us during these medical school years. Today as we become physicians, please use us to be a blessing and to be your hands touching and your feet going to those who are sick and in need. Please help us use our gifts, the intellect You have given us, and all that we have learned, for Your glory and the good of others. And we ask that you would bless our celebrations today. Thank You for all of this and who You are.

In Jesus’ name, we pray.

Amen!