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NYMC Celebrates the Class of 2020 with Online Pomp and Circumstance

The New York Medical College 161st and the Touro College of Dental Medicine inaugural Commencement was celebrated on May 19.

May 26, 2020
Congratulations Class of 2020
Congratulations Class of 2020

An audience of more than 1,600 viewers joined in to watch the unified virtual ceremony. The entrance of the ceremonial mace carried by Jeremy Rosenblum, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, marked the official beginning of the ceremony that was presided over by Janet Dolot, D.P.T., Dr.P.H. ’14, assistant professor of clinical physical therapy, who served as the Grand Marshal.

Rabbi Moshe D. Krupka, M.S., executive vice president of the Touro College and University System (TCUS), offered the invocation. “Although the circumstances have dictated that we cannot be together physically today, each of us remain united, yes, united as we are on the campus in Valhalla, united by our common goals to make this world a better place and utilize the education we have received at Touro and at New York Medical College,” he told the Class of 2020.

A special moment of remembrance honored Dr. Mark Hasten, of blessed memory, who served as chairman of the Board of Trustees of TCUS and NYMC. He passed away on February 28, 2020, at the age of 92.

Alan Kadish, M.D., president of TCUS and NYMC, remembered his mentor and friend. He explained that the image on the screen, a chair holding a Touro baseball hat, paid tribute to Dr. Hasten, who preferred to wear his baseball cap rather than a typical academic hat. He never missed a commencement and travelled all over the United States and abroad to attend graduation ceremonies to show how proud he was of all the graduates.

Offering words of advice for the graduates as they begin the next phase of their lives, Dr. Kadish said, “As you enter your professions, many of you will look at yourselves as role models. You cannot rest on your academic laurels or professional achievements,” he said. “I urge you to dedicate yourselves to become the professional who you would hold up as a standard bearer, not only professionally, but also ethically and spiritually.”

Morgan Atanasio, TouroCDM Class of 2020 and president of the TouroCDM Student Government Association, addressed her fellow students. “As a graduate student on the campus of New York Medical College, I know we have one thing in common. We were chosen by our admissions committees and deemed qualified to pursue our passions in health care,” she said. “Being in the inaugural class provided the blank pages to write our own legacy and refreshingly that would serve as a chapter in the more than 160 years of New York Medical College’s history of established excellence.

The Commencement address to the Class of 2020 was presented by R. Bruce Donoff, D.M.D., M.D., the Walter C. Guralnick Distinguished Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor and former dean of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Donoff was an early proponent of breaking down the barriers between medicine and dentistry and advocating for the integration of what has been commonly viewed as two separate professions in order to improve overall patient health. “Crisis can forge change. But I hope this pandemic serves to reduce siloization of oral and general health, education practice and insurance coverage, rather than foster greater social distancing of them,” said Dr. Donoff.

Special guests including well-known individuals from the world of politics, public service, professional sports and entertainment, offered their virtual greetings and congratulations to the Class of 2020. They included New York State (NYS) Assemblymen Kevin M. Byrne, 94th District, and Thomas J. Abinanti, 92nd District; former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino; NYS Senator Pete Harckham, 40th District; Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Senator for New York; Anthony J. Scarpino Jr., Westchester County District Attorney; New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy; Nicholas Kristof, journalist for The New York Times; Joan Lunden, journalist; Richard Ottinger, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives; Westchester County Executive George Latimer; Howard A. Zucker, M.D., J.D., NYC Commissioner of Health; and Michael D. Israel, president and chief executive officer of WMCHealth.

Then, it was the moment everyone was waiting for—the conferral of 528 degrees to the Class of 2020, including 211 doctor of medicine (M.D.) degrees, 43 doctor of physical therapy (D.P.T.) degrees, 8 doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees, 69 master of science (M.S.) degrees, 91 master of public health (M.P.H.) degrees and 3 doctor of public health (Dr.P.H.) degrees from NYMC and 103 doctor of dental surgery (D.D.S.) from TouroCDM, the first new dental school in New York State in 50 years.

The NYMC School of Medicine graduating class included 98 new physicians who graduated on  April 8, a month ahead of schedule, beginning their medical careers early to provide much needed medical support to the over-taxed hospitals facing the COVID-19 pandemic. Paving the way for this historic event, on April 4, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo publicly announced his approval for the early graduation plan, thus allowing all eligible medical students from the Class of 2020, throughout the entire State, to graduate early, should they wish to do so. In a letter to the early graduates, Edward C. Halperin, M.D., M.A., chancellor and chief executive officer, wrote, “You begin your careers as physicians at a time of particular peril to individual patients, to the medical infrastructure of the United States, and to the social fabric of western democracies.”

The tradition of administering the United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office at Commencement continued as three graduates from the School of Medicine and two graduates of the Touro College of Dental Medicine swore to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. U.S. Navy Commander Mill Etienne, M.D. ’02, M.P.H., FAAN, FAES, associate professor of neurology and medicine and associate dean for student affairs, School of Medicine, administered the oath of office taken by all uniformed officers upon commissioning or promotion to: Jennifer Arana-Vasquez, M.D. ’20; Erica Bucki, M.D. ’20;  Morgan Endreson, M.D. ’20;  Jaymes Furnival, D.D.S; and Bozhao Men, D.D.S. 

Before the final farewell to the Class of 2020, Dr. Halperin took a moment to recognize Matthew A. Pravetz, O.F.M., Ph.D. ’88, professor of cell biology and anatomy, program director and assistant dean for basic sciences, for his 37 years of service to NYMC. Dr. Pravetz, who will be assuming a leadership position in the Order of Friars Minor, was presented with a Resolution of the Board of Trustees of New York Medical College, thanking him for being a beloved teacher, counselor, and mentor to generations of students, faculty, and staff and wishing him Godspeed on the next chapter in his life’s journey.

Dr. Halperin concluded the ceremony with a charge to the Class of 2020. “As graduates of this College, I charge you to defend the proposition that the world is full of our fellow human beings,” he said. “That all are created equal and, sometimes our fellow humans are in need of prompt, expert, and humane medical care and always benefit from discovery research—and sometimes we shall be the ones in need of the care and the benefits of research. We shall treat others as we would expect to be treated.” Dr. Halperin concluded, “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 as New York Medical College proudly remembers you.”

Let’s celebrate the Class of 2020 here: watch the unified 161st New York Medical College and Inaugural Touro College of Dental Medicine Commencement Ceremony and the schools' award ceremonies and congratulatory videos, scroll through #NYMCgrad photos from social media and view the commencement program with your TouroOne login credentials here.