FSU College of Medicine graduates 20th class

FSU President Emeritus John Thrasher was commencement speaker.

Saturday’s commencement ceremony for the M.D. Class of 2024 marked a major milestone in the history of the Florida State University of College of Medicine, graduating its 20th class of physicians and adding 110 medical doctors to its alumni ranks, bringing the total to 1,956 physicians.

Interim Dean Alma Littles, M.D., in her opening remarks, acknowledged the challenges they faced because of a global pandemic; by changes in deans at two of the six regional campuses; changes in the medical licensing exam; and the deaths of several key faculty members.

“But none of this kept you from your goal and your class stepped up time and again to the challenges in front of you,” she said. “You persevered and with true grit and resilience, you made it!”
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Class President Nick Thomas also mentioned how the pandemic necessitated changes.

“Who would have thought that our first day of medical school would begin in our bedrooms?” he asked. “We had no idea that we likely would be the only class in history to start their medical school career completely virtual. Yet we embraced the unknown.”

He encouraged his classmates to continue to embrace the unknown as they continue their journey, “not as a source of fear, but as a canvas upon which we can paint the story of our lives – a story filled with triumphs, setbacks, and everything in between.”

“Most importantly, let us remember that the true beauty of our dreams lies not in their attainment but in the journey itself,” Thomas continued, “in the lives we will touch, the hearts we will heal, and the difference we will make in the world.”

Graduation ceremonies at the College of Medicine can feel like family reunions in some ways, with the affection and bonds between classmates, as well as between students and faculty, apparent through the hugs and laughter. That was especially true this year. John Thrasher was a key partner as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives in getting the Legislature to authorize the first new medical school in the United States in more than 25 years. He later became president of FSU, now president emeritus, and served as this year's commencement speaker. Littles introduced Thrasher as “a dear friend of this university, the College of Medicine, and mine.”

He shared that although he has spoken at many graduation ceremonies, this was his first time speaking at an FSU College of Medicine commencement. He said he was “deeply honored.”

Dr. Matt Williamson
Dr. Matthew Williamson

“This great privilege is even more meaningful to me  because my granddaughter Ashley’s husband, Matt Williamson, is one of today’s graduates,” Thrasher said. “Matt, GiGi and I, along with the entire family, are so proud of you.”

He joked that graduates’ lives would change forever after today, in part because their parents would never call them by their first names again.

 “It will always be ‘my daughter, the doctor’ or ‘my son, the doctor.’ In my case, Matt Williamson will now always be known as ‘my grandson-in-law, the doctor.’”

 He said he had learned a few lessons throughout his law and legislative careers that were applicable to physicians, offering four bits of advice. First, recognize that communication is so important.

“Effective communication is at the heart of patient-centered care,” he said. “You will interact with patients from all walks of life, each with their own unique   background, experiences and perspectives, so it is imperative that you listen attentively, explain medical concepts in plain language so those of us who are not   physicians can understand it, and always, always demonstrate empathy, kindness and respect.”

 Second, he advised students to get involved in their communities and embrace leadership roles.

 “You don’t have to go into politics to make a positive impact,” Thrasher said. “You can use your expertise to advocate for your patients, mentor the next generation of medical professionals, and champion causes you believe in and are important to you.”

Third, commit to a lifelong pursuit of knowledge.

“We are living in a world of rapidly changing innovations, and the knowledge and skills you have today might be outdated tomorrow,” he said. “Stay curious, stay humble and never stop seeking opportunities for continued education and self-improvement.”Dr. Alma Littles displays the replica of the College of Medicine sign created by the FSU Master Craftsmen Studio for the college to give President Emeritus John Thrasher, for whom the building is named.

Fourth, maintain a work-life balance.

“This is a lesson, frankly, that took me a while to learn, and my wife would tell you I’m still learning it, but it is imperative,” he said.

Only by taking care of yourself will you be equipped to care for others, he added.

A double alumnus of FSU with bachelor’s and law degrees, Thrasher closed with this: “Congratulations, Class of 2024, and may you find fulfillment, purpose, and joy in the noble calling of medicine. May God continue to bless you, and I couldn’t walk away from here without saying ‘Go Noles!’” – which he punctuated with a tomahawk chop.

Following Thrasher’s comments, Provost and Executive Vice President Jim Clark conferred master’s degrees in biomedical sciences in the Bridge to Clinical Medicine program on eight students. Later this month, they will begin medical school as members of the Class of 2028.

Clark then conferred M.D. degrees on the 110 graduating physicians. Afterward, the graduates were “hooded” by their regional campus deans, congratulated by Littles and Clark, and posed for pictures with them.

A brewing thunderstorm cut short the picture-taking and reminiscing around the Westcott fountain afterward, but as Littles had predicted in her opening remarks, no one let the weather wash away the joy of the day.

Contact Audrey Post at Audrey.Post@med.fsu.edu

Photo captions:

Spotlight photo on the home page: Dr. Juliette Lomax-Homier, dean of the Fort Pierce Regional Campus, hoods Dr. Yasmin Ali during the M.D. Class of 2024 Commencement Ceremony.

Photo at top right: FSU President Emeritus John Thrasher gave the commencement address.

Photo above, at right: Interim Dean Alma Littles displays the replica of the College of Medicine sign created by the FSU Master Craftsman Studio for the college to give President Emeritus John Thrasher, for whom the building is named.

(Photos by Colin Hackley for the FSU College of Medicine)