UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix Hosts Virtual Graduation amid Coronavirus Pandemic

May 7, 2020

For the first time in the medical school’s history, fourth-year students and faculty at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix will not process down Van Buren Street on the day of graduation. Instead, students and their families, who have been anticipating this day for at least the past four years, will attend a virtual graduation ceremony Monday, May 11.

For the first time ever, a procession of University of Arizona medical students and faculty will not walk down Phoenix’s Van Buren Street together for graduation. Instead, the ceremony will be held online virtually. (Photos: College of Medicine – Phoenix)After four years of exams, clinical rotations and residency interviews, 93 medical students will receive their medical doctorate degrees. All graduating members of the Class of 2020 have matched into residency programs, where they will continue their medical education for another three to seven years, depending on their specialty.

The commencement is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. Students, family, faculty and staff will log into the virtual commencement via Zoom. The ceremony will include a virtual bagpipe introduction, personal statements from students, words of support from faculty and staff, and a hooding ceremony. Students will be hooded by their family or friends.

Bridget Ralston, MD“This is an extraordinary group of well-prepared, new physicians, who are stepping forward to serve all of us in this time of significant need, despite their own personal risks,” Guy Reed, MD, MS, dean of the College of Medicine – Phoenix, said.

The students are familiar with how the pandemic has affected their medical training and celebrations. In March, the medical school had to cancel its in-person Match Day event and go virtual. Although it wasn’t the same experience, students celebrated and enjoyed the day with close family and friends — and virtually with the entire campus.

Thirty medical students made the decision to graduate early to serve on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Class of 2020 has many remarkable students who decided to graduate early, including:

  • Hari Menon, MDBridget Ralston, MD, decided to join the health profession early to help address the physician shortage. “There is a nationwide shortage of health care providers,” Dr. Ralston said. “This was true long before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Now, that shortage is even more keenly felt, as providers are struggling to manage the addition of coronavirus patients into their already heavy workload. I applied to graduate early, so that I can shoulder some of the responsibility.”
  • Hari Menon, MD, took a research year to study in the laboratory of James Welsh at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Menon discovered that low doses of radiation may considerably improve response rates in tumors of patients with metastatic stage IV cancer. He has published more than 20 papers in various journals and has abstracts accepted for presentations at national conferences.
  • Elzada Hasecic, MD, escaped a war-torn country, life in a refugee camp and eventually made her way to the U.S. where she was granted political asylum. Dr. Hasecic began her medical journey as a Pathway Scholar, a program designed to help students who have experienced unique or greater than average challenges in preparing to become competitive medical school applicants.  

Some facts about this graduating class, the 13th in the history of the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix:

  • 5,358 applied and 323 were interviewed.
  • One percent of those who applied were accepted.
  • The Class of 2020 completed an estimated 1,930 PowerPoint slides just for their Clinical Anatomy class.
  • They spent 50,000 hours studying.
  • They took 35 exams.
  • 18 students earned a Certificate of Distinction.
  • 16 students earned master’s degrees in public health.
  • 1,202 residency interviews offered.
  • 14 graduates were Pathway Scholars.

Elzada Hasecic, MDUniversity of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins, MD, will offer welcoming remarks, as will Dean Reed.

Cara Christ, MD, MS, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS), will deliver the commencement address. Dr. Christ became director of AZDHS in May 2015. Among her many accomplishments at AZDHS, Dr. Christ collaborated with health partners and stakeholders to develop strategic plans for infectious disease prevention and control, including the Governor’s Council on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response. She was involved in leading statewide efforts during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and worked with partners to find solutions to improve childhood vaccination programs.

Graduating senior Zana Alattar was chosen to deliver the student address by her fellow classmates. Alattar, who is one of the 30 students who graduated early, will pursue a residency in surgery at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix.

Zana Alattar was chosen by her classmates to be the Class of 2020 commencement speaker at the College of Medicine – Phoenix.

When the medical college opened its doors in 2007 as the first allopathic medical school in Phoenix, Arizona was suffering from a severe physician shortage. In just 13 years, the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix will have graduated 590 physicians, including this class.

Of the graduating class, more than 40% will continue their training in Arizona. Thirty-six students will stay in Arizona for all years of residency; an additional seven will do their preliminary year in Arizona, then go elsewhere for specialty training. Of the 43 students who will train in Arizona, 30 matched at Banner – University Medical Centers in Phoenix and Tucson. In addition, 13 students matched at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Mayo Graduate School of Medicine in Phoenix, and Creighton University-affiliated hospitals.

A version of this story appeared originally at the College of Medicine – Phoenix website.

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More information on the college’s activities regarding the COVID-19 pandemic are at this link.

The UArizona Health Sciences COVID-19 Resources webpage can be found here.

For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university's COVID-19 webpage.

NOTE: Photos available here – https://arizona.box.com/s/u0gjslaqyzrntxxs6brs1sau0pgdvqap

About the UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix
Founded in 2007, the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix inspires and trains exemplary physicians, scientists and leaders to optimize health and health care in Arizona and beyond. By cultivating collaborative research locally and globally, the college accelerates discovery in a number of critical areas — including cancer, stroke, traumatic brain injury and cardiovascular disease. Championed as a student-centric campus, the college has graduated 500 physicians, all of whom received exceptional training from nine clinical partners and 1,800 diverse faculty members. As the anchor to the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, which is projected to have an economic impact of $3.1 billion by 2025, the college prides itself on engaging with the community, fostering education, inclusion, access and advocacy. For more information, please visit phoenixmed.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).

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