Virtual Commencement Celebrates Class of 2020
June 8, 2020
The Class of 2020 celebrated Commencement virtually due to social distancing and the COVID-19 pandemic, but one major aspect of their May 29 ceremonies remained the same as any other: community.
This year's virtual Commencement celebrated 528 graduates as they transitioned from students to alumni.
MD, MS and PhD students collaborated from home to help make the day memorable, participating by video in pre-recorded graduation festivities that are archived online.
Graduates who would have donned a ceremonial hood with help from faculty and alumni instead shared videos in which they put on the regalia with help from their siblings, parents, significant others, children or other important people in their lives.
The graduates' loved ones typically fill the Kimmel Center with applause, but this year they expressed their support and pride through the ceremonies' online comment sections. College faculty and staff made sure to post heartfelt congratulations as well.
It is customary for MD graduates to recite the physician's pledge, in which they promise to dedicate their lives to serve humanity and put the health and well-being of their patients first. This year, 255 MD program graduates recited from home the oath that will guide them through their upcoming residencies, and throughout their careers.
The Class of 2020 also included 255 master's degree students and 18 PhD students. Some completed programs in forensic science, immunology and more, while others will move forward to medical school.
Prior to Commencement, members of the Class of 2020 were honored by:
- The Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, for their impact in creating positive change and contributing to the inclusive excellence within the College.
- Peers in the Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences (IHS) program, earning awards for positive qualities like leadership and kindness or for work in areas like teaching and mentoring.
- The Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society, for commitment to professionalism, leadership, scholarship, research and community service, and the Gold Humanism Honor Society, for compassion and leadership in the practice of medicine.
The Class of 2020 had an opportunity to learn from Commencement speaker Katherine High, MD, the president and head of research and development at Spark Therapeutics, who this year received the honorary degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa. Dr. High drew from her career pioneering cures for genetic diseases to share an important message with graduates.
"Whatever you choose as your career path, make sure it's something that you feel is really worth doing," Dr. High said. "If you believe in the value of what you're doing, if you know that it's a worthwhile use of your talents and your energy, you'll have the fortitude and the long view that you need to help overcome obstacles along the way."
Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Dean and Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs Charles B. Cairns, MD, also addressed graduates during the ceremonies.
"You have been extraordinary in rapidly expanding your knowledge base, acquiring new skills and gaining the experience necessary to become successful scientists and physicians. You have also proven to be an especially resilient and resourceful group, given the unprecedented challenges you have faced," Dean Cairns said. "We are so proud of the role that you will play and all that you will bring [to the world]."