For nearly 200 Harvard medical and dental school graduates, the day that many have worked toward all their lives finally arrived on the HMS quadrangle Thursday as they received diplomas during Class Day ceremonies, taking an oath to uphold the principles of their vocation, inspired by the Hippocratic Oath, the Declaration of Geneva and the traditions of their respective schools.
“This fulfills my ultimate American dream,” said HSDM graduate Richard D. Senatore.
For all, it was the culmination of years of work, not just by the graduates alone, but also their families.
Jillian Rork, who collected her diploma with her young son in her arms, was also joined on the quad by her parents and her grandmother.
“All four generations gathered here helped make today possible,” Rork said, explaining that she lived with her grandmother while she pursued post-baccalaureate studies before coming to medical school. Her father, a physician, and her mother, a physical therapist, were also sources of inspiration.
“We had so many conversations around the dinner table about the challenges—and the privilege—of treating patients,” Rork said. “This is really a celebration for the whole family.”
This Class Day, the 225th year for HMS, 161 students earned Doctor of Medicine degrees, including 45 students who also earned master’s or doctoral degrees. It was the 144th year of the dental school, where 37 students earned Doctor of Dental Medicine degrees from HSDM (including one who also earned a Master of Public Health degree). In addition, HMS awarded Master of Medical Science degrees to 33 students: nine in the Clinical Investigators Training Program, 10 in Biomedical Informatics and 14 in the Scholars in Clinical Science Program.
Both faculty and students donned resplendent academic regalia, with hoods and robes decorated to represent their alma mater and the degrees of their wearer—green for medicine, lilac for dentistry. Among the students, many also carried personal tokens and talismans: gifts from family and friends or reminders of their personal journeys to this momentous achievement—a swatch of traditional cloth from home, or a Hawaiian lei to symbolize the ending of one journey and the beginning of another.
“It’s exciting to have made it through all the things we’ve been through, clinically, academically and personally, and to be here today, hopefully ready to take care of patients in the next phase of our work,” said graduate Jeff Ishizuka.
“It’s monumental to see how God honors the desires of our hearts,” said Stacey Morgan of Los Angeles, who was celebrating the graduation of her brother, Christian Strong. His diploma capped a lifetime of dedication for Strong, who had wanted to be a doctor since childhood, Morgan said.
Harvey Fineberg, the seventh president of the Institute of Medicine (and, as former Provost of Harvard University, former dean of Harvard School of Public health and HMS ’71, a speaker with deep roots at Harvard) delivered the keynote address, advising the grads to always keep their patients first.
Earlier in the day, Drew Faust, President of Harvard University, conferred degrees on graduates from all Harvard University schools at the Commencement Ceremony in Harvard Yard. In the afternoon, medical and dental school graduates returned to the HMS quadrangle for lunch, to hear from the leaders of their respective schools and receive diplomas.