Penn Medical School holds first in-person commencement since pandemic

The 2020 and 2021 classes were welcomed to join so they could walk the stage and enjoy their achievement.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Graduates of The University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine were honored during their 2022 commencement Sunday morning at The Kimmel Center.

The graduating class of 169 people were able to receive their diplomas and take the Hippocratic Oath in person for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

Additionally, the 2020 and 2021 classes were welcomed to join so they could walk the stage and enjoy their achievement with family members and fellow colleagues.

Dr. Olivia Jew graduated in 2020 but arrived Sunday from North Carolina with her entire family.

"It was important for me and my family to at least have the moment to be here, and it is really exciting even though it's two years in the making," said Jew.

These graduates ended up becoming part of the COVID-19 response while they were still students. They delivered food to homebound seniors and gathered critical supplies for healthcare workers like PPEs.

Dr. Zachary Minno said it highlighted the importance of their role as healthcare professionals during an unprecedented time.

"It was really intense, especially working in the hospital, but I'd say we were in a really special position. I feel like we were really privileged to be a big part of it. And although we weren't doctors yet, I think we were still really hopeful. It was exhilarating to be part of the response to the pandemic," said Minno.

The pandemic also changed the perspective of many of these doctors while in the early stages of their medical education.

"My dad got COVID-19 and had an immunological disease. He almost died from COVID-19. He got very sick. It really refocused my efforts and re-centered me and reaffirmed that I wanted to be a provider and make that difference in people's lives," said Dr. Thaddeus Woodard.

"The reality is the pandemic exposed a lot of issues within the health care system. My hope is that my generation has taken those to heart and is going with more resilience than ever and just ready to help people the best way possible," said Dr. Fortunay Diatta.

In addition to the tremendous feat of graduating from medical school, 79% of the 2022 graduating class graduated with a dual degree including an MD and MBA, or with a certificate in Health Care Innovation.
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