General UCSF Medical Education News

Class of 2022 Celebrates Graduation In-person for First Time Since 2019

 |  By Cora Palmer
UCSF School of Medicine Class of 2022. Photos by Cindy Chew.

UCSF School of Medicine Class of 2022. Photos by Cindy Chew.

On May 12, 2022, the UCSF School of Medicine graduating class of 2022 joined together with loved ones, leadership, faculty, and staff, for the first in-person commencement ceremony since 2019. It was a spirited celebration that honored the 148 graduates who showed courage, creativity, and determination as they completed the first step of their medical education during a pandemic.   

School of Medicine Dean Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD, noted that the class of 2022 had already demonstrated their commitment to service by showing up in inspiring ways during the pandemic – volunteering at vaccination clinics, collecting thousands of masks for hospitals in short supply, organizing blood drives, and developing accessible health literacy materials in various languages.

“You have acquired skills that allow physicians to respond swiftly, effectively, and compassionately to all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “I have confidence that just as you handled the changes of the last two years with grace and understanding, you will embody those qualities as you embark on this next chapter of your career.”

Commencement speakers Dan Lowenstein, MD, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, and S. Andrew Josephson, MD, Professor and Chair, UCSF Department of Neurology, praised the students for their unusual and important role in the pandemic.

“You trained to become physicians while enduring the greatest public health challenge in generations. You learned medicine at a time of tremendous societal and professional challenge, and while you were learning your profession, you were also on the front lines of the pandemic, caring for our patients and sacrificing like few others in our society did,” said Dr. Josephson. “We, as a school and as your faculty entrusted you with this awesome responsibility, as did your patients. And at each and every moment you stepped up, took this privilege to heart, and helped lead the way in our university’s COVID response.” 

More than just a jubilant gathering honoring resilience during a global pandemic, the event was also a celebration of the rich diversity of the communities that members of this class are prepared to serve and strengthen.

A group of students pose for a photo before the ceremonyThis year marked the first time a Native elder gave an opening blessing at a UCSF School of Medicine commencement. Catalina Gomes, a descendent of the Raymatush Ohlone Tribe, and founder of the Muchia Te’ Indigenous Land Trust, gave the blessing to open the ceremony. Gomes was introduced by Monica Stretten, MD, Class of 2022, a citizen of the Chickahominy Tribe of Virginia. In her remarks, Gomes reminded the class of 2022 graduates to, “keep an open heart and an open mind to new knowledge.”

Drs. Lowenstein and Josephson delivered the event’s keynote address, which centered on the theme of relationships and caring in the work of a physician. They used humor and their own personal friendship to highlight the importance of relationships, connection, and caring at all scales of practice. They emphasized the importance of building each patient-caregiver relationship on a sense of shared humanity, empathy, and a holistic understanding of the patient as an individual. To ensure that patients feel valued, Dr. Lowenstein advised graduates to “hold on to a mindset that always sees your patients for who they really are.”

They shared the benefits of bringing a sense of shared humanity, trust, and kindness to connect in every interaction, whether that is with broader society, individual patients, diverse health care teams, or individual friends and colleagues within the graduating class.

“It is these friendships, these relationships, which make us better physicians, and which ultimately make us better people,” said Dr. Josephson.

Ninad Bhat, MD, was selected by his fellow graduates to speak at the commencement ceremony. Dr. Bhat’s comments were informed by his unique perspective from an academic background in both molecular & cellular biology and creative writing. He discussed the critic and writer Joseph Campbell’s Heroic Cycle, a common story arc where the protagonist goes on an adventure, confronts challenges, is victorious in crisis, and returns home changed.

Students applaud during the ceremony“We are at the point in our lives where we are staring at a window at what looks like an abstract landscape of medicine. And frankly, the time for staring is over. Now we must walk across this stage into that landscape, fail frequently, learn a lot, surmount some obstacles, and then like the protagonists in our favorite stories from around the world, go home to the people, the patients, and the causes we love. Let’s go home to them so that we can help them become the protagonists we know they will be,” he said.

In a tribute to the cultural richness of UCSF and a celebration of the diverse backgrounds of the students and their families, graduates recited the first line of the UCSF Physician Declaration in 11 languages other than English. The line reads, “As a physician, I solemnly promise that I will serve humanity – caring for the sick, promoting good health, and alleviating pain and suffering.” Denise Connor, MD, Associate Professor, UCSF Department of Medicine, and Director of the Anti-Oppression Curriculum Initiative led the graduating class, faculty, and all physicians present in the recitation of the UCSF Physician Declaration.

Dean King closed the ceremony by saying, “Your class has always refused to accept the status quo. You have been pushing boundaries within yourselves and challenging those around you to do the same. I have no doubt that if you continue to do this, you are destined to make a difference.”

Watch the full commencement ceremony: