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New York Medical College Celebrates 162nd Commencement Virtually, With Impassioned Speeches From Leadership, Faculty and Students

The commencement was virtual yet still filled with the usual pomp and circumstance.

June 01, 2021
Class of 2021 Commencement Collage yearbook-like front cover
Class of 2021 Commencement Collage

Each school’s commencement ceremony premiered online at 7:00 p.m. on May 26, as thousands of people joined in to watch the ceremonies for more than 500 graduates and leave congratulatory comments online, as NYMC and TCDM leadership, donned in their academic hoods and gowns, welcomed the graduating class and offered advice and wisdom as they prepared to embark on their professional lives.

True to tradition, the ceremony began with Luis F. Riquelme, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, BCS-S, associate professor of speech-language pathology, bearing the ceremonial mace which dons the portrait of NYMC founder, William Cullen Bryant. The Grand Marshal of the 162nd commencement exercises, Kelly Hutcheson, M.D., M.B.A., professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, introduced the a capella group, the Arrythmias, who sang the National Anthem, followed by the invocation given by Rabbi Moshe Krupka, M.S., executive vice president of the Touro College and University System (TCUS).

“These dedicated students have worked so incredibly hard, they have toiled long and grueling hours,” said Rabbi Krupka.  “They have endured sleepless nights to master the intricacies, the complexities, the frailty and the wonder of your most precious creation—humanity.”

Joseph Mark, chair of the Board of Trustees, offered words of support to the students. “Your academic achievements, dedication and desire, to make the world a better place may bring you to some far-off, wonderful places, but we hope you always remain close in heart and in spirit to New York Medical College and the Touro College of Dental Medicine,” said Mr. Mark.

Student speaker, Chelsea C. Banks, a member of the School of Medicine (SOM) Class of 2021, addressed her classmates reflecting on the students’ experiences throughout their time at NYMC, whether it was fun memories among friends or dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. She encouraged students to use their new degrees to not only contribute to their profession but to fight against disparities and inequities.

“One thing I’ve learned about this community is that we are always striving for more,” Ms. Banks said. “I dare us to use these degrees to leave a legacy for generations to come.”

The 2021 commencement speaker, Catherine D. DeAngelis, M.D., M.P.H., University Distinguished Service Professor Emerita Johns Hopkins University and professor emerita of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, then addressed the virtual audience. A leader in academic medicine, Dr. DeAngelis was the first woman editor-in-chief of the Journal of American Medical Association. Dr. DeAngelis spoke to the students of the prestige of having a medical degree.  

“With this prestige comes a great responsibility,” Dr. DeAngelis said.

Dr. DeAngelis also spoke of the power that those who are in the medical field wield a great deal of power but how they use it is up to them. “How you practice, how you work, how you cure, how you heal, how you discover is in your hands and no one else’s,” Dr. DeAngelis said. 

Alan Kadish, M.D., president of TCUS and NYMC gave encouraging remarks to the students before beginning the conferring of the degrees. 

“In these times our responsibility to society is enormous,” Dr. Kadish said. “Not doing harm is not enough. We must do good.”

Each school had its own moment in the spotlight, for deans and faculty of each school to address their students.

Jerry L. Nadler, M.D., MACP, FAHA, FACE, dean of the SOM and professor of medicine and of pharmacology, spoke to the graduating students in the SOM about the difficulties faced by the students due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a sudden halt to their third-year clinical rotations.

“Medical school is difficult enough but starting a year ago in March, the pandemic hit very hard, leading to social isolation and the loss of friends, family and colleagues,” Dr. Nadler said. “What can I say about this class? You are certainly very bright, enthusiastic and showed true humanistic values."

Marina K. Holz, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Basic Medical Sciences, addressed the soon-to-be graduates. “It is a special honor and pleasure to congratulate you all on achieving this important milestone,” Dr. Holz said. “Many thanks to all of our faculty members. I know first hand that our faculty members share in the rewarding experience of seeing our students reach the completion of their degrees.”

Robert W. Amler, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice and vice president for government affairs, offered his congratulations and praise for the SHSP Class of 2021.

“This is a happy moment in time,” Dr. Amler said. “These women and men have sparkled with exceptional talent, energy and ideals.”

Dr. Amler told SHSP students to take pride in their work and that what they can do can have a lasting impact on the world. “Millions of Americans alive today will still be alive in the 22nd century,” Dr. Amler said. “Their history is literally yours to write.”

The Commencement exercises concluded with remarks by Edward C. Halperin, M.D., M.A., chancellor and chief executive officer of NYMC and provost for biomedical affairs of the TCUS, who spoke on NYMC’s stance as a bastion against bigotry since its founding and a College that does not discriminate and encouraged students to embody those same values in their careers.

“As you go forward, I charge you to commit yourselves to the highest professional and ethical standards, to render to each person the dignity that is rightfully theirs, to remember that you are stewards of the connected human family, to be compassionate to those in need and to remember with pride New York Medical College and the Touro College and University System, as we will proudly remember you,” Dr. Halperin said.

In the days leading up to Commencement, in-person ceremonies on campus celebrated the accomplishments of each school with COVID-19 precautions in place, including hooding and award ceremonies. A military pinning ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point commemorated the promotion of two members of the SOM Class of 2021 from second lieutenant to captain in the U.S. Army.  

The NYMC community embraced the Class of 2021’s success during an unprecedented time and rejoiced in their achievements while looking forward to their professional futures and proudly remembering their palpable positive energy and place in NYMC history.

View Commencement exercise videos here.

Class of 2021 Commencement Week