Resilience, compassion take center stage at OUWB’s 10th commencement
An image of students at the OUWB 2024 Commencement
Students from OUWB's Class of 2024 pose for a fun picture prior to Friday's commencement.

The resiliency of Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine’s Class of 2024 and the importance of compassion were front and center at the school’s 10th commencement on Friday.

More than 700 people attended the event held on the campus of Oakland University.

They witnessed 115 graduates get hooded and officially be called “doctors” for the first time as the school’s number of graduates passed the 1,000 mark.

“It’s very surreal,” said Ashley Williams, who matched in diagnostic radiology at Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

“I remember when I was 10, I’d write in my diary ‘Ashley Williams, M.D.’ Thinking about it got me choked up this morning.”

Ahmed Hussain, who matched in internal medicine at Ascension Macomb, expressed similar feelings.

“Four years of hard work and it leads to this moment and going on to the next chapter of our lives…it's an exciting thing,” Hussain said. “It’s surreal.”

Dauen Jeong, who matched in orthopaedic surgery at University of Michigan, reflected on how the class was able to bond despite the early challenges presented by COVID.

“By being proactive, I was able to find my sense of community,” Jeong said. “Now, I’m going to have these friends for my whole life.”

An image from the 2024 OUWB commencementFriends and family members of the graduates generally expressed feelings of pride and excitement for the newly minted physicians.

Deborah Kessler’s son, Alex Kessler, was among the graduates. Kessler matched with University of Minnesota Medical School for residency in internal medicine.

“It’s overwhelmingly exciting,” Kessler said. “He made it look easy from my side (of things). He ultimately put in all the hard work to arrive at this moment here.”

Graduates like Oyinkansola Akinpelu, who matched at University of Texas at Austin, were already looking ahead while reflecting on the OUWB experience.

“Medicine is a field that takes a lot of hard work, and a lot of dedication,” she said. “We've already shown dedication for four years, so we're just going to keep carrying that out to residency.”

Resilience, compassion, and other advice

Several speakers addressed the graduates and friends and family members, with common themes emerging, especially compassion and resiliency.

“As we stand on the cusp of our professional careers, remember that the resilience we’ve developed here is not just about enduring hardship but about thriving amidst challenges, and this has equipped us with the tools to navigate the stress and challenges of residency,” said Yousif Esho, class speaker.

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Linda Gillum, Ph.D., founding associate dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs, was the keynote speaker. She, too, commended the class for its resilience.

Gillum also talked about the history of OUWB and how the school’s “north star,” or guiding light, centered on kindness, courage, and compassion.

“From day one, we envisioned preparing a different kind of physician — from that vision we made a promise,” said Gillum, who retired in 2019. “This promise shaped who we wanted to be and who we are today.”

“The culture that we established in 2008 will forever influence the way OUWB physicians practice medicine and the lives of every patient who will ever be seen by you, our amazing OUWB physicians,” she added.

Christopher Carpenter, M.D., Stephan Sharf interim dean, also stressed the importance of compassion.

“(Compassion) is one of our most important attributes as physicians,” he said. “On this day that we call you doctors for the first time, I encourage you to always practice with compassion – compassion instilled in you by your families and that we’ve had the privilege of nurturing over the last four years.”

Other speakers offered advice.

An image from the 2024 OUWB CommencementThat included alumni speaker Matthew Drogowski, M.D., OUWB ‘19.

“When dealing with future patients, think back to the lessons you learned at OUWB, remember that the good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease,” he added. “Always remember that at the heart of every medical decision lies a human being, a person with fears, hopes, dreams and loved ones who entrust you with their care.”

Daniel Skovronsky, M.D., Ph.D., chief scientific officer, Eli Lilly and Co., received an honorary degree from OUWB, and spoke during the ceremony.

He told the graduates that they were “lucky enough to be graduating in the midst of what history will record as the golden age of biomedical science.”

“My wish for you is that you should take advantage of your great timing, to do your part to improve health, not just for the individual patients for whom you will care, but for all of humanity,” he said.

He urged graduates to stay up-to-date on the latest in medical advances, and consider encouraging patients to participate in research.

“And perhaps most importantly, I ask you to follow your hearts and be advocates for your patients to help them access the cutting-edge science that is now available,” he said.

Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., president, Oakland University, also spoke. She recalled the day she graduated from medical school and subsequent life lessons learned as a younger doctor.

Among the lessons she mentioned were: approach each day with passion and purpose; never underestimate yourself but never overestimate yourself either; seek mentors; and be curious, respectful and humble.

“Of all these aphorisms, perhaps the most important one is this one: believe in yourself,” she said. “And believe in the practice of medicine.”

Berkley Browne, Ph.D., associate dean, Student Affairs, also offered advice.

“Be proud of everything you have accomplished here and take it with you as you move through the world,” she said. “Remember all you’ve learned, stay courageous during the ups and downs of residency life, and approach this next phase of your professional journey with thoughtfulness and compassion.”

She also urged the graduates to maintain the bonds they’ve created.

“You have had a medical school experience together that no one other than yourselves can fully understand,” said Browne. “Keep each other close and continue to support one another, no matter how near or far you are in the future.

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected].

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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