Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine’s Class of 2021 celebrated becoming doctors today during a drive-in event held on the campus of Oakland University.

Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine Class of 2021 Celebrates Commencement
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OUWB Class of 2021 member Kevin Cervantes, M.D., took part in the ceremonial hooding with his parents during Friday's commencement.

Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine’s Class of 2021 celebrated becoming doctors today during a drive-in graduation held on the campus of Oakland University.

A total of 116 students graduated, joined by families, friends, and colleagues in a socially distanced and safe celebration.

Similar to a drive-in movie theater, the ceremony was presented on two large screens with attendees tuning in on their vehicle stereos.

Speakers included Oakland University President Ora Pescovitz, M.D., OUWB Stephan Sharf Dean Duane Mezwa, M.D., and Sandra LaBlance, Ph.D., associate dean for Student Affairs.

Mustafa Polat, M.D., spoke on behalf of the graduating class, while Aleah Thompson, M.D., Class of 2018, welcomed the graduates to the OUWB alumni chapter. Keynote speaker was humanitarian Najah Bazzy, R.N., Ph.D., CEO and Founder of Zaman International, a nonprofit agency that supports marginalized women and children.  

“Know that the world is ready and waiting for you and your talents,” said Mezwa.

“It needs physicians like you who will follow their passion, and meet challenges with strength and kindness," he continued. "Believe in yourself. Believe in your OUWB training, and I promise you a long and fulfilling career.”

Pescovitz commended the graduating class for persevering in the face of a global pandemic caused by COVID-19.

“Go forth…be strong,” she said. “Confront problems as challenges and challenges as opportunities. . . and know that in our global village, your leadership and character are needed now more than ever. We are so proud of you. May you remember your days here fondly, and forever carry OUWB in your hearts.”

Click here to see the full ceremony, a graduate slideshow video, and a celebratory congratulations and photo montage

Bazzy’s said addressing the graduates was amongst “the greatest honors of my life.”

“There's no way to describe in words what your families are feeling today,” she said. “It's more than joy, more than a proud moment…it's a feeling of fulfillment, gratitude, and hope for your future.”

Bazzy, a 2019 CNN Hero who has helped more than 2 million families globally through a nonprofit she started in a minivan, was conferred with an honorary doctorate degree from Oakland University in 2020.

Much of her inspiring presentation centered on the importance of communication.

“Remember to look into the eyes of your patients and see the person beyond the gown,” she said. “Remember that each of us stands on the shoulders of those before us generations deep and that you will also be strong shoulders for those who will follow you.”

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Polat and Mezwa

Polat, who matched in March at University of Michigan Hospital, said being the speaker for the Class of 2021 “is an indescribable feeling.” He reminisced about myriad aspects of the OUWB medical school journey, from the first day of orientation through Friday’s ceremony.

“Be proud of every experience that's brought you to this day,” he said. “Don't forget what and who made you who you are today. Don't forget the reason you decided to go on this demanding path and the reason you haven't given up. Let that drive you through residency, let that drive you through your long career as a healer, a servant, and a scholar.”

Polat also said that “to get to where we are, we had to stand on the shoulders of giants.”

“These are the people who made today possible for us,” he said. “Think about those people. Tell them how much you love and appreciate them, and think about how you will carry their legacy and make them proud as you move on to the next stage of life.”

LaBlance asked students to briefly exit their vehicles so that family, friends, and loved ones could conduct the ceremonial hooding of the doctors.

Related:

Outstanding achievements commended at 2021 OUWB Honors Convocation

OUWB Class of 2021 wraps up four-year capstone projects

Match Day 2021: OUWB’s Class of 2021 headed to residencies across the U.S.

OUWB welcomes seventh medical class at White Coat Ceremony

Before that, however, she acknowledged the COVID-19 pandemic and other societal issues that were especially present in the lives of everyone during the graduates’ final 18 months as medical students.

“We are proud of you and your accomplishments,” she said. “Remember all you have achieved here with us and take it with you as you move throughout your lives. Do not forget the lessons taught to you by your educators and your patients. We are counting on you to change the world.”

After the ceremony, vehicles snaked their way to a stage where students picked up their diplomas and had plenty of photo opportunities with OUWB faculty.

Students shared an overall feeling of tremendous pride and excitement. 

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Oska with her parents and sister

"When we started four years ago, our ID badges had an expiration date of July 2021 and a bunch of us were talking recently about how far away that seemed," said Sandra Oska, M.D., who matched at Henry Ford Hospital. "It's amazing to think how quickly it went by and how amazing it is to be here in person,...even with the COVID pandemic and to be doing it at least partly in person is something we're all really excited about."

Kristin Rybski, M.D., who matched at University of Rochester/Strong Memorial, said graduating from OUWB was "the best feeling."

"Graduating from medical school is the biggest accomplishment of my life so far so I'm very excited," she said. 

Graduate Meredith Allen, M.D., who matched at University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, said she was happy to celebrate with her classmates. 

"I'm just excited to see everybody that we haven't seen in so long and celebrate together," she said. "OUWB did a good job of making sure that we have somewhat of a normal graduation experience so we really appreciate that, too."

Many graduates said they were eagerly looking forward to their residencies. 

"I"m excited to be done and excited for the next step in my journey in medicine," said Stuart Goates, M.D., a graduate who matched at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. "I'm grateful for OUWB getting me here."

Goates was particularly grateful to his PRISM mentor, Andrew Banooni, M.D.

Students thanked others who supported them along the way, as well.

"It's a great feeling, especially to be surrounded by, and sharing this with, friends and family," said Andrew Ragheb, M.D., who matched at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak. "We've worked for this for four years and have had a lot of road bumps along the way so to finally be able to celebrate the accomplishment is a phenomenal experience." 

Austin Morris, M.D., a graduate who matched at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, and is getting married in June, shared similar sentiments. 

"The biggest thing for me it that I wouldn't be where I am today without those who supported me," said Morris. "As much as this is an opportunity to showcase us as students, it's also about focusing on family and bringing everybody together."

Graduate Raza Qadir, M.D., who is headed to St. Mary Mercy Hospital for a transitional year before University of Chicago Medical Center, said overall, the day was bittersweet. 

"For me, it's a lot of nostalgia," he said. "It's like a sense of closure because these are people that I spent all my time with for three years and then for the past year, not being able to see anyone...so we finally have this last chance to really get together with everybody before we move on. 

"It's truly a mixture of happiness, sadness, and excitement...all of those things," he said. 

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at adietderich@oakland.edu

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

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