Miller School of Medicine graduates met challenges with resilience

Commencement exercises for the Miller School of Medicine took place May 11 at the Watsco Center.
By Joey Garcia

Commencement exercises for the Miller School of Medicine took place May 11 at the Watsco Center.

Miller School of Medicine graduates met challenges with resilience

By Joey Garcia
At a commencement ceremony at the Watsco Center on the Coral Gables Campus, more than 190 medical school graduates were lauded for their achievements.

The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s 67th commencement ceremony on May 11 celebrated more than 190 eager new physicians of the school’s class of 2022. 

Dr. Henri R. Ford, dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School, led the proceedings, congratulating the class on their journey to becoming physicians during a unique and particularly challenging time in medicine.  

"Never before has a class entered their career at a time of such great need," Ford said. "We have endeavored to empower you to transform lives and to inspire you to serve our global community. Never forget to embody the essential attributes of a successful physician: character, patience, persistence, compassion, honesty, and integrity.” 

President Julio Frenk touched on developing fortitude and life's rites of passage. He recognized parents, veterans, and the faculty that made this day possible for the graduates.  

“Through all these challenges, you stayed engaged and on course with adaptability and resilience,” Frenk said. "In life, some sacrifices test and define characters, and your ability to persist will lead you to a bright future. Remember, what inspires resilience is hope and confidence. As our medical graduates, you are our hope and a shining example of resilient ’Canes. You are well equipped to face future challenges."  

The ceremony included recognitions for two retiring Miller School faculty members. Jeffrey Duerk, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, commended Dr. Gregory Zych for 41 years of service and Dr. Silvina Levis for 33 years with the Miller School. 

Before presenting the graduates, commencement speaker Dr. Tore Godal, who received an honorary degree, addressed the class. Godal’s six-decade career in medicine and public health has taken him from Norway to Ethiopia and around the world, working for the World Health Organization. He told the graduates to choose adventure, build on their experience, and take risks.

Resilient ’Canes  

As the themes of challenge and resilience resonated with students, many reflected on their personal journeys. Rick Lin credited his mother and late twin brother as important figures in helping him get through medical school. 

“I knew in high school I wanted to be a physician, and my twin brother has pushed me to continue this journey despite how tough these past four years have been at times,” said Lin, who will be a resident in internal medicine at the University of Florida. “I know my brother David would be extremely proud. I don’t think I could ever be as awesome as my mom, as I’m extremely thankful for her support. I’m super excited for this next chapter.” 

Sophia Jimsheleishvili also felt gratitude as she thanked her mother, a neurologist who immigrated to the United States from the country of Georgia and did her residency in the U.S. later in life. 

“I didn’t have dolls; I would play doctor instead,” recalled Jimsheleishvili, who will be a neurology resident at the Miller School/Jackson Memorial Hospital. “There was a reason I wanted to do this, and my mom and I helped each other out. I hopefully made her proud as I’m really thankful. She has been my mentor, motivator, and main person who has inspired me.” 

The Miller School continues to lead the nation in medical schools granting dual degrees. Out of the more than 190 graduates in the M.D. program, there were 48 M.D./M.P.H., eight M.D./Ph.D., seven M.D./M.S., and five M.D./M.B.A. graduates. 

One of the dual-degree recipients was Sebastian Victor Sanchez-Luege, who delivered the student address. Sharing examples of the care his classmates had shown to patients, Sanchez-Luege spoke of how small experiences can impact patients’ livesas he witnessed 20 years ago when he battled cancer. 

“My hair is a reminder of a journey that started in first grade and brought me to the U,’’ said Sanchez-Luege, who will be in the transitional/anesthesiology program at Stanford Health Care. “We all come to med school with our narrative, and it's important to recognize how our stories intersect with those of our patients. Don't be afraid to connect deeply with them and be vulnerable,” he added. “The patients we will encounter have stories to share. They come to us with more than an illness. It is up to us to uncover their fears, aspirations, and understand the social network in which they exist.”

Dr. Latha Chandran, executive dean and founding chair of the Department of Medical Education, led the Hippocratic oath and gave each member of the class a parting gift: a copy of “Life on the Line: Young Doctors Come of Age in a Pandemic,” by Emma Goldberg. 

Dr. Alex J. Mechaber, president of the Miller School’s Medical Alumni Association, congratulated the new graduates and spoke of the legacy that began in 1956 when the Miller School graduated its first class. Reminding them that they were now part of that proud heritage, Mechaber concluded, “For today, goodbye. For tomorrow, good luck. And forever, go ’Canes.”