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UCSF School of Medicine Graduation Honors the Achievements, Diversity, and Potential of the Class of 2024

 |  By Paul Brandfonbrener
Group photo of UCSF medical student graduates
Members of the UCSF School of Medicine Class of 2024

On May 19, 2024, the 173 graduates of the UCSF School of Medicine class of 2024 were joined by family, friends, and the UCSF community for a night of celebration at Davies Symphony Hall. It was an evening filled with reflection and optimism, honoring the achievements, diversity, and potential of this exceptional class.

The Dean of the School of Medicine, Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD, began the ceremony by acknowledging the unique circumstances in which this class began medical school and how far they had come, saying, “This class started medical school in August 2020, during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of you stepped up in unexpected ways – reinforcing your passion for finding ways to help patients across a wide range of communities.”

Speaker at podium
UCSF School of Medicine Dean Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD, addresses the audience at the 2024 UCSF School of Medicine Commencement Ceremony

Dean King highlighted the accomplishments of the class and looked ahead to the next chapter of their training. He said, “I have confidence that just as you have handled the unique challenges of medical school with grace, understanding, a relentless curiosity and passion for discovery, and focus on the importance of collaboration, you will embody those same qualities as you embark on this next chapter of your careers.” He emphasized how the graduates exemplified the pillars of the UCSF Bridges Curriculum: compassionate care, discovery, teamwork, and social justice.

Specific cohorts of students were then recognized, including the graduates of the Medical Scientist Training  Program, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery ProgramUCSF-UC Berkeley Joint Medical ProgramPRIME-US, and the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) PRIME program. Dean King praised these cohorts and the class as a whole for going above and beyond the requirements of their degrees to serve their communities. In addition to their clinical and classroom responsibilities, students volunteered at free clinics, created programs to inspire high school and college students to consider a career in medicine, and organized and led innovative electives and interest groups, among countless other activities.

Class representative, Thomas Ituarte, then introduced the commencement speaker for the evening. This year’s keynote speaker was the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winner and the Chair of the UCSF Physiology Department, David Julius, PhD. Dr. Julius began his speech by highlighting the differences between his career as a basic researcher and the graduates entering the field of clinical medicine. “But occasionally, a beautiful thing happens when these two worlds merge,” he went on, “and biological mechanisms revealed by basic research are parlayed into powerful new advances in medicine and patient care.” He urged the graduates to keep the inquisitive and curious mind of a researcher as they enter their careers. Ending by highlighting the new responsibilities of this class of physicians, he said, “Believe it or not, you are now the future, and we look to you to take charge, fix what’s broken, and make great things happen. No pressure!”

The student speaker, Jar-Yee Liu, was then introduced and invited on stage. He began by reflecting on starting medical school during a pandemic and the individual and collective growth that ensued over the following years. He captivated the audience with a speech full of humility and humor and looked to the future, saying, “I’m starting residency to become a psychiatrist in a few months. In my journey to help people feel whole, one of my biggest endeavors is to soften what gets in the way of meaningful connection.” He highlighted the importance of finding support and connection with those around us in the field of medicine, saying, “The most important lesson from these past few years is that connection is health.”

The hooding ceremony then began, a highlight of the School of Medicine commencement each year since it began over 36 years ago. Graduates walked on stage with loved ones who placed the ceremonial green hood around their graduate, having time to pose for a picture and shake the hand of one of the deans. Everyone was beaming with pride as they walked across the stage to the crowd’s cheers.

The next part of the evening was the recitation of the UCSF physician’s declaration. UCSF School of Medicine Vice Dean for Education, Karen Hauer, MD, PhD, explained, “This declaration reflects UCSF’s vision of the 21st century physician as a professional who works collaboratively in promoting health and reducing suffering while continually improving our health care system.” Dr. Hauer then invited a group of graduates to recite the first line of the physician’s declaration in a language other than English. This annual tradition is always a highlight, and this year, 19 different languages were represented. The first line of the declaration reads: “As a physician, I solemnly promise that I will serve humanity – caring for the sick, promoting good health, and alleviating pain and suffering.” It was truly moving to hear this line repeated while celebrating the diverse backgrounds of the graduates and their families.

People wearing graduation gowns
Members of the UCSF School of Medicine Class of 2024 recite the UCSF physician's declaration

All graduates and physicians in attendance were then invited to recite the complete declaration, led by UCSF professors and co-directors of the School of Medicine’s career advising program, Brent Kobashi, MD, and Heather Whelan, MD. It was inspiring to hear this new class of physicians recite the same words they had spoken together in their White Coat Ceremony at the start of their first year of medical school, now having finished this step of their training.

Dean King then returned to the stage for closing remarks. He urged the students to continue to embody the characteristics that made them exceptional medical students at UCSF: a commitment to equity, leadership in advocacy, service with compassion, and the pursuit of lifelong learning. He concluded the ceremony by saying, “Wherever you are headed next, I want to thank you for what you leave behind: your insistence that as healers we must always stand up for the rights of our patients and do what is right, even when it is hard. We are very proud of all of you.”

Graduates seated in a row

Watch the full commencement ceremony: