Newly graduated physicians, dentists, scientists, and public health professionals along with their faculty, family, and friends were all smiles on May 8 at UConn Health’s 52nd Commencement ceremony.
Commencement for the Class of 2023 was at the Jorgenson Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs. The Class of 2023 included 51 new dentists receiving doctorate of dental medicine (DMD) degrees, 110 new physicians with doctorates of medicine (MD), and close to 100 new scientist and public health experts graduating with degrees across Doctor of Philosophy in biomedical science; Doctor of Philosophy in public health; Master of dental science; Master of public health; Master of science in biomedical science; and Master of science in clinical and translational research.
“Congratulations UConn doctors! Thirty-five percent of the doctors in Connecticut are graduates of UConn and sixty-two percent of the dentists. You are the intellectual power of Connecticut, and you will heal and help our communities. Thank you!” shared University of Connecticut President Radenka Maric in her Commencement address. “And just one small reminder, you are Huskies forever! Go Huskies!”
“Class of 2023, a big congratulations. We can’t wait to see what you do next,” shared Dr. Bruce T. Liang, interim CEO of UConn Health and dean of UConn School of Medicine. “As of today, you are a part of UConn’s long legacy, and you are forever a member of the UConn family.” The Class of 2023 was the largest incoming class in UConn’s medical school history.
UConn is the largest single source of new physicians, surgeons, and dentists for the State of Connecticut. The dental school has produced nearly 2,000 dentists in the schools’ history and this year marks a historic milestone for the medical school having now produced more than 4,000 physicians. In fact, since 1972 UConn has graduated 4,086 physicians and 1,945 dentists. Also, it has trained more than 1,000 public health experts and 700 scientists.
“To the graduates of the School of Dental Medicine, congratulations,” said Dr. Steven Lepowsky, dean of the School of Dental Medicine. “You’ve inspired us with your empathy and talents. I challenge you to continue to strive for excellence in all you do. That is the hallmark of a UConn grad! You will forever be a member of the UConn dental medicine family.”
“Our world needs people like you more than ever before. Your knowledge is power. You have the power to imagine better. This is a start of a new journey,” shared Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of The Graduate School, Kent Holsinger, in his address to those receiving a graduate degree in Master of Public Health or a Doctor of Philosophy.
Class of 2023’s keynote speaker was Renée Joskow, D.D.S, M.P.H, Captain, U.S. Public Health Service, and Special Advisor, National Institutes of Health. Joskow is a dentist and a medical epidemiologist who has dedicated her life to service and leading change. She has inspired others through teaching and mentoring and has provided high quality clinical care and public health expertise in the U.S. and abroad.
“To those we honor today, the UConn Health graduates, congratulations on this remarkable achievement. Today is about celebrating your hard work,” shared Joskow in her Commencement address to the UConn Health graduates. “You will save lives. You can do anything.”
The Schools of UConn Health graduates also had three peer-selected student speakers.
“Congratulations Class of 2023! We’ve accomplished our goal,” said UConn Graduate School program student speaker Emily Fabrizio-Stover, 26, of Greenwich. “Don’t lose sight of all you accomplished. Congratulations we did it! May your passion for medicine and science continue to guide you.”
She graduated with her Ph.D. in biomedical science from the Department of Neuroscience at UConn School of Medicine. Her dissertation research focused on developing an objective test for tinnitus that can be used in both animal research models and human patients. After graduation, Fabrizio-Stover has a position as a research post-doc at the Medical University of South Carolina studying how auditory processing changes with age. Her ultimate goal is to continue to work in academia and teach and continue to inspire love for research in the next generations of scientists.
School of Dental Medicine student speaker was Flaviah Muchemi who was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and moved to the United States with her family when she was 10. On May 8 she conquered her life-long dream to become a dentist. She will be continuing her education in an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery residency at Case Western Reserve University, where she hopes to continue learning and making a positive impact in the lives of her patients.
“To my fellow graduates in UConn School of Dental Medicine – congratulations,” shared Muchemi. “We are the essence of the phrase ‘it takes a village.’ Thank you to the village! Thank you to my fellow graduates! Thank you UConn!”
Class of 2023 medical school graduate Commencement speaker was Celina Marie Lopes Caetano, 26, of Waterbury.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away. You took the nutrients from the mother tree of UConn,” said Caetano. “Remember, hope is a desire that takes action but requires patience. I hope you enjoy and embrace this time of hope.”
Also at the event Zita Lazzarini, J.D., M.P.H. of the School of Medicine received the 2023 UConn Health Board of Directors Faculty Recognition Award for her advancement of medical education at UConn and dedicated public service to the State of Connecticut.
At UConn School of Medicine Lazzarini oversees courses addressing health systems sciences, including her fields of specialization, law, public health, and bioethics. She serves as an associate professor in the Division of Public Health Law and Bioethics in the Department of Public Health Sciences and director of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the School of Medicine. She has been with UConn Health since 1998.
“Professor Lazzarini has excelled in her educational and community service contributions to UConn Health,” applauded Liang, dean, UConn School of Medicine and UConn Health Interim CEO. “We are thankful for her longstanding and continued service.”
“I want to thank the Board of Directors for this award. I feel extremely honored to receive this and very gratified that the Board chose me,” says Lazzarini. “When I first came to UConn in the fall of 1998 I was very impressed by the school’s long-term commitment to developing humanistic physicians, dentists, and public health professionals who serve the people of the State of Connecticut, the nation, and the world.”
Public service like that of Lazzarini’s now marches on.
Starting today hundreds of new graduates from UConn are entering the health care workforce from UConn Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine and the Graduate School. The workforce will now be stronger than ever before to conquer the health care challenges of tomorrow.