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The University of Mississippi Medical Center this weekend conferred degrees to 930 students who are beginning their careers in the health sciences, or entering into a new chapter of an existing one in this state and beyond.
The graduates of the schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, Nursing, and Health Related Professions are leaving campus with the aim of improving health and quality of life. They were recognized during UMMC’s 62nd Commencement at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
Of this year’s graduates, 677 attended commencement and received their diplomas.
“Graduates, there are four things that I want you to take with you,” Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, told students.
“One, this is a milestone. It is not the end,” Woodward said. “In fact, this is only the beginning of your learning process. As you go forward, you will learn from one another and you will learn from the greatest teachers of all – the patients.
“Two, you will make choices every day that will impact others in a significant way. Deal with others and those you serve with a deep respect for our differences,” she said. “Chose respect. Choose kindness. Choose courage.
“Three, our nation will continue to struggle with ways to care for the sick. Be a part of the solution to this struggle. In all things, leave it better than you found it.
“Four, you will never practice any health profession well if you don’t have a good time doing it,” Woodward said. “The work before you is hard. It is important. It is heavy. And, it’s rewarding and it is worth doing. Remember the excitement, the spirit, the passion you have today.
“Look for the joy. Have a good time.”
Among those receiving diplomas was Claire Harkey of Ridgeland, a School of Medicine graduate who on July 1 begins her residency in pediatrics at the Medical Center. Acting, not medicine, had been on her mind since she was a kindergartener. “I loved being on stage and being dramatic,” she said. “That was my life’s dream for the longest time.”
But after several years in New York didn’t launch that career, she returned to Mississippi, graduating from Millsaps College, but still not going into medicine. She spent a year in Honduras as a teacher.
Even so, a History of Medicine course she took at Millsaps had piqued her interest in becoming a physician. She was accepted into the medical school before she made her way back from Honduras.
Dr. Robert Harkey, professor of neurosurgery and Claire’s father, draped her hood over her shoulders during the commencement ceremony. “For four years I’ve watched her go through the process I did three or four decades ago,” Harkey said. “I’ve watched her struggle, and I’ve watched her succeed.
“To have her walk across the stage and receive the diploma ….I’m getting to do what I’ve envied my colleagues doing for many years.”
The University of Mississippi in Oxford and UMMC together enrolled 23,780 students this school year, 20,351 in Oxford, 2,890 at the Medical Center, and 1,220 at other campuses, said University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter.
“Those of you who will receive your degrees today and soon begin practicing the healing arts share a common legacy with all who have gone before you, and that is a mark of quality,” Vitter said. “We’re confident that you’re well prepared for your next steps of training, or to assume your responsibility as a health care provider.”
The Medical Center’s faculty “challenged you and demanded your best,” Vitter told students. “You likely thought at times that they were too demanding. But very soon, when you compare your preparation at our health sciences campus with that of other students across the nation, you’ll find out how very fortunate you are to have been their students.”
Additional photo: School of Dentistry graduates Maureen Malingkas, left, and Jiman Nelson take a celebratory selfie. Image: UMMC