UConn Health marked a historic milestone on May 8 with its 50th Commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021’s new 107 physicians and 47 dentists from UConn School of Medicine and UConn School of Dental Medicine held at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
The livestreamed event celebrated 154 graduating medical and dental school students following in the footsteps of UConn Health’s first Class of 1972 graduates. Since then the School of Medicine has graduated 3,874 physicians and the School of Dental Medicine 1,845 dentists.
This year’s combined outdoor event due to COVID-19 honored all UConn Health medical, dental, and its other UConn Graduate School program students including celebration of those earning 105 Master’s (74) or Ph.D. (31) degrees since December 2020 at UConn Health. Plus, degrees were conferred upon UConn’s other Doctoral, Pharm. D, Pharmacy B.S., and Law graduates.
“I want to congratulate each and every of you newly minted physicians and scholars for making it through these most challenging times – and together – with your fellow classmates, faculty, staff and families,” said Dr. Bruce T. Liang, dean of the School of Medicine in his Commencement address. “No matter what — you never gave up. Not even an once-in-a-lifetime pandemic could stop your momentum – nor prevent you from reaching your ultimate goal of standing here before us and your loved ones today to receive your advanced degree.”
Liang added: “Just like our dental school, the UConn School of Medicine today begins to celebrate our 50th golden anniversary year of producing nearly 4,000 physicians in our rich- and half-a-century school’s history. You 107 graduating medical students are part of our largest class to ever graduate UConn’s medical school.”
“To the graduates in the School of Dental Medicine, I stand here in awe of you,” said Dr. Steven M. Lepowsky, dean of UConn’s dental school in his delivered remarks to the graduates. “In awe of your resiliency, your flexibility, your understanding, your commitment to excellence and your steadfast drive to get to this point in your professional lives. In awe of your grace, maturity and professionalism in the face of incredible challenges posed by a pandemic that disrupted not only your education, but your lives and all of society.”
Lepowsky added: “I challenge you to continue to strive for excellence in all that you do – that is the hallmark of a UConn grad! You will forever be part of our UConn Dental family. Regardless of the path you have taken – and the path you will continue to follow, we wish you all the best in the future.”
Liang concluded: “You will always have a friend and a home away from home here at the UConn School of Medicine. You already have made UConn so very proud. We can’t wait to see what you do next.”
The Class of 2021 student speaker was Katherine “Katie” Merrick earning a dual degree of Doctor of Dental Medicine and a Master of Public Health.
“We came into our professions in a time of multiple crises: the COVID pandemic, reckoning with racial injustice, and mental health and substance use. Developing our professional identities in this time has forged a connection to the power and privilege our roles encompass,” said Merrick who is returning to her home state of Vermont for a general practice residency at the University of Vermont Medical Center and plans to enter comprehensive general dentistry. “I’m proud of us, Class of 2021, for the professionals we have become. Thank you. Go Huskies!”
Other Class of 2021 graduating physicians and dentists are excited to be part of UConn Health’s 50th Commencement milestone.
“I feel honored to be part of such a historic moment for UConn Health. I am excited to see what commencement will be in another 50 years,” said graduating medical student Faith Crittenden ’14 (CLAS), 29, of Windsor.
“I am very excited that I get to have an in-person commencement for my last graduation ever,” shared Ayesha Ejaz ’17 (CLAS), 26, of East Windsor graduating from UConn School of Dental Medicine. “I had an unforgettable experience here at UConn Dental, I value everything I learned and have the confidence that I will be a successful clinician and dentist.”
“My time at UConn medical school has truly been a journey of resilience and joy,” says Gian Grant-McGarvey’14 (CAHNR), 27, who is originally from Brown’s Town, St. Ann, Jamaica, graduating with a dual MD/MPH. “As someone who migrated to Connecticut at the age of 5, to be graduating from UConn School of Medicine and School of Public Health truly means a lot. I have had opportunities I would never have dreamed of.”
Grant-McGarvey added: “Being a part of this 50th Commencement during this time period in the U.S. and the world has been historic in more ways than one. Overall, I hope everyone recognizes that this 50th Commencement really does demonstrate the resilience that lies within every human; every graduate has had to adjust in some way throughout this past academic year. I think we should all be extremely proud of our accomplishments and all that we have had to overcome to be called the Class of 2021.”
“This is a monumental event and I am thankful, grateful and blessed to be part of it,” said graduating dental student Ashley Arthur ’17 (BUS), 25, of West Hartford. “My time spent at UConn School of Dental Medicine has been remarkable. Upon graduating, I will carry with me life lessons I learned from faculty and staff. I have made lifelong friendships and mentors and I am excited to share my journey with them.”
“I am honored to be a part of the 50th Commencement. It is energizing to imagine what the next 50 classes of physicians and dentists from this institution will accomplish,” shared Jahnea Williams ’16 (CLAS), 26, of Waterbury graduating from the medical school.
Barbara E. Kream Ph.D., associate dean of UConn Graduate School and professor of medicine and genetics and genome sciences also shared well wishes for the graduating UConn Health students.
“I congratulate all of our graduates for their amazing work and resilience, particularly during this very challenging year of the pandemic,” said Kream. “All of them should be feel extremely proud of their accomplishments and I wish them good luck and good health as they continue in the next steps of their careers.”
“Students today, Huskies forever,” shared UConn President Tom Katsouleas in his Commencement address. “You will show the world what it is to be a UConn Husky.”
Congratulations to the Class of 2021!