OUWB Class of 2023 graduates; commencement ceremony emphasizes humanity, kindness
An image of students celebrating at commencement
Katie Hole, M.D., and Brittany Silverman, M.D., celebrate graduate from OUWB on May 12, 2023.

Humanity and kindness took center stage alongside Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine's Class of 2023 on Friday — when the school’s ninth class celebrated officially being called doctors for the first time.

About 500 people attended the school’s 2023 commencement ceremony held at Oakland University’s O’rena. Attendees watched 110 graduates become OUWB’s newest alumni.

Among those who spoke were Ben Schwartz, M.D., MHCM, president, Corewell Health East; Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., president, Oakland University; and Duane Mezwa, M.D., Stephan Sharf Dean, OUWB.

Before congratulating the Class of 2023, Mezwa recalled recently reading about the “8 Rules of Life” on social media, and noted his favorite: be kind.

“Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves. Sometimes we are too hard on each other,” he said. “Imagine if we reminded ourselves and others of our potential, our courage, and our strength.”

“Encourage yourself and encourage a friend, the world will be a better place,” he added.

“Kindness is contagious. Compassion is contagious.”

Schwartz delivered the keynote address. He said he was acting as “the voice of over 30,000 health care providers that ultimately share in celebration” of the graduation of the Class of 2023.

He credited the members of the class for successfully completing their entire medical school experience during the COVID-19 pandemic, and called it an “amazing accomplishment.”

His primary message was about the importance of humanity in health care, despite advances in technology.

Want to know where the graduates are headed for residency? Check out the Match Day page by clicking here!

“I implore you — for your patients, for your colleagues, for your team members — to be in the moment with the practice of humanity that OUWB has emphasized over the last four years,” he said.

Schwartz also urged the new physicians to do what they can to help make OUWB a “shining example” of what it means to learn to be a doctor.

Other speakers at the event were Robert Schostak, chair, Oakland University Board of Trustees, Berkley Browne, Ph.D., associate dean for Student Affairs, Kala Seawright, M.D., ’21, OUWB, (who served as alumni speaker), and Shivam Patel, M.D., who spoke on behalf of the Class of 2023.

Patel also talked about the importance of humanity, and how some of the most valuable lessons he learned while a student at OUWB had nothing to do with a lecture or test.

“We may not realize it at the time, (but) being intentional with even the small conversations we share in passing, and having a willingness to recognize that we will always have room to grow can make the biggest difference in our training and careers,” he said.

“Because the way we treat each other and those around us will always be the most important legacy we leave behind,” he added.

‘No more hoping or wishing’

An image of students celebrating at commencement
Graduates took plenty of selfies at the OUWB 2023 Commencement Ceremony.

Students who graduated Friday generally expressed feelings of excitement for the next phase of their medical careers.

Kaleigh Bullock, M.D., said that she’s “ready to be the doctor on the floor”.

“It’s nice to finally have the title and practice medicine, while we also have the support of all our superiors to help us learn and grow even further,” said Bullock.

“It’s relieving to have made it to the end. We have our jobs, and now we’ll be doctors — there’s no more hoping and wishing, it’s here.”

Charlene Hsia, M.D., added that it’s nice to see the culmination of her and her classmates’ efforts.

“It’ll be good to do what we’ve been working towards doing these past four years,” said Hsia. “It’s such a hard journey, through pre-med and med school, but it’s nice — it all culminates into us going into residency and finally being doctors.”

Several graduates commented on how the class was uniquely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as it began halfway through their first year — and that it didn’t stop them from creating memories and pursuing medicine.

“We were in a unique position, because we met everyone at the beginning of school and we had half of our first year in-person…then we went virtual, but we already formed a lot of bonds prior to that,” said Dalia Rahmon, M.D.

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Rahmon will begin her OB/GYN residency at Ascension Providence/Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

“We’ve gotten really strong bonds with our classmates and really leaned on them to get through school, and that’s definitely something really important moving forward into residency too,” she said. “I’m looking forward to building that same kind of family unit and getting through all the hard stuff with people.”

Christeena Twal, M.D., echoed a similar sentiment.

“We’re here. We did it,” she said. “It feels good to be here today and to finally be done, to see all my hard work is really paying off. It’s a surreal feeling.”

“(The pandemic) was a big challenge, for sure. I missed a lot of my classmates. We weren’t able to see each other for a very long time,” she said. “Seeing them all together again…is a beautiful thing.”

“I’ve been jumping from person to person, not knowing where to look, and looking around at all these people that we started off with in our M1 year…(we were) motivating ourselves and telling each other that we can keep going on,” Twal added.

“We really supported each other throughout these four years, and it’s nice to see them all in their gowns and caps. It’s a great feeling.”

Stephanie Icabone, M.D., also appreciated the strong bonds at OUWB during her medical education.

“This journey has been long and challenging with COVID and having to learn online, so it’s nice to come back together and see everyone,” she said. “I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a lot of help and a good network. Our cohort of students is incredible. At OUWB, we always knew that we could look to the class above us or below us if we needed anything. It was a great experience.”

“I am happy to start doing what I really wanted to do — practicing medicine,” Icabone added. “I’m really excited.”

The excitement extended to the families of the new physicians — Rachel and Shekhina Soumokil were in attendance to celebrate their husband and father respectively, Richard Ramirez, M.D.

“It’s been a long journey, and we’re super excited…he got his first-choice residency,” said Rachel Soumokil.

Rachel Soumokil moved with her husband to Michigan from Arizona when he was accepted to OUWB. Now, with Ramirez beginning his psychiatry residency at University of Michigan Hospitals, Ann Arbor, they’re beginning to settle down.

“We’re setting down roots, which is really exciting,” she said.

“It’s been a long time,” said Shekhina Soumokil. “I don’t think I really remember a time when he wasn’t working, either working hard at work or doing school. So it’s crazy.”

Eduardo Leon, M.D., was supported by his family — including his brother, Angel Leon, who will soon begin his own first year of medical school at Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University.

“Very excited, very happy, and very proud of him,” said Angel Leon. “He’s a big inspiration for me.”

Alongside the M4 students’ loved ones, several underclassmen attended commencement to show their support.

“It’s nice to support our upperclassmen and give us a little bit of motivation and encouragement to finish the year off strong,” said Brenda Bortiss, M1.

“It’s really cool, knowing they were in our shoes just a few years ago,” said Kaitlyn Chalfant, M1. “We look up to them. They’ve accomplished so much, so it’s crazy to see where we’re going to be in a few years.”

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