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MD, PA and PT Programs Celebrate Class of 2013 Commencements

They were separated by nearly 5 weeks, but each included a flurry of excitement and anticipation of the future, when 264 students from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s MD, PT, and PA programs donned caps and gowns to receive their diplomas at separate ceremonies. While proud family and friends looked on, these trainees participated in their final crowning event as Feinberg students.

MD Class of 2013

Ronak Ajit Vashi, MD ’13, beamed as her oldest sister, Roopal Vashi Kundu, MD’01, associate professor in dermatology, hooded her at the medical school’s 154th graduation convocation on May 23 at Chicago’s Navy Pier Grand Ballroom.

“Both my sisters graduated from Feinberg, and I feel honored to continue the tradition,” Vashi said as she celebrated with the 161 members of her class. “Graduating is bittersweet for me. It is exciting to imagine what the next chapter holds and to reflect on our past four years, but it is also hard to part ways with the many wonderful friends and faculty in the Northwestern community.”

Eric G. Neilson, MD, vice president for medical affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean, gave the welcoming address, leaving seniors with these words:

“This is your special day. Remember from where you came, both the people who helped you get here, and, most importantly, the multitudes who will depend on the talents and skills asked of you in the future,” he said.

Neilson gave the class his best wishes before introducing the commencement speaker, Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD, president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a leader in academic healthcare.

Elizabeth Nabel, MD and Eric Neilson, MD

“Welcome to medicine,” Nabel said. “It is an amazing profession that is so much more than a job or a career. … I know that all of you have worked so hard to do many things outside of getting your degree and making change for others. I congratulate you all for these wonderful efforts and I encourage you to keep them up. Class of 2013, you are the future of medicine. As you cross the next thresholds of your life, I wish you all the best.”

After degrees were conferred, Laura Sestokas Humphries, MD ’13, gave the senior class message, during which she thanked faculty, family, friends, and classmates – her “village” – for their support in making it possible for the class to graduate.

“So, fellow graduates, be kind, be thoughtful, be engaged in your village, because others deserve a village as good as ours was,” she said. “I am humbled and honored to have shared this space with you all, to call you my colleagues. I thank you for being part of my village. It was a wonderful place to grow up.”

Twenty-eight of this year’s graduates were inducted to the medical honor society, Alpha Omega Alpha, and two new Latin Honors awards were given this year, with eight graduates receiving Magna Cum Laude in Scientia Experimentali and 15 Cum Laude in Scientia Experimentali.

FSM graduates 2013

Fourteen students were honored for graduating with distinction in research. Students graduating with joint degrees included 14 graduates earning a Master’s Degree in Public Health, four individuals receiving a Master’s Degree in Medical Humanities and Bioethics, and 11 completing a doctorate in the Medical Scientist Training Program.

Physical Therapy Class of 2013

Her knee just gave out.

But while a torn ACL meant sacrificing time on the lacrosse pitch, for Mary Kate Casey, DPT ‘13, it would also lead to the discovery of a budding career.

Seven years removed from her own rehabilitation, Casey walked off the stage inside Thorne Auditorium on Saturday, April 20, to take her first steps as a graduate of the 85th class of the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program (DPT) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“This journey has been one with many challenges and obstacles along the way,” said Casey, recipient of the Sally C. Edelsberg Scholarship in Physical Therapy. “However, without these challenges and the support of the faculty and staff at the medical school, I wouldn’t feel ready to embark on my career. Although leaving is bittersweet, I am confident in my abilities and the skills that have been instilled in me and the values and beliefs I hold after participating in this program.”

PT graduates 2013

Casey was among the 74 members of the Class of 2013 to celebrate the culmination of their physical therapy education. The longest continually accredited physical therapy school in the nation, Feinberg continues to place among the best in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings.

After finishing her undergraduate degree at Northwestern in 2009 – while a part of four consecutive NCAA lacrosse championship teams – Casey enrolled at Feinberg. Following graduation, she began working with physical therapy group Athletico at their Evanston Clinic under fellow Northwestern graduate Lisa Palazzolo, DPT ’04, who was her physical therapist in 2006.

“It was in the training room during the many hours of therapy that I became eager to learn more and develop an understanding of the rehabilitation process,” Casey said. “I am so excited to work with Lisa and her staff and to develop relationships with Northwestern sports medicine doctors…”

The three-year DPT program includes part-time clinical involvement during the academic portion of the curriculum, as well as 38 weeks of full-time clinical internships divided between four of more than 400 clinical education sites across the country. Feinberg also offers research opportunities and more than half of DPT students present their research at national physical therapy association meetings or other scientific meetings.

Clinical Education Award recipients included Lacy Wiley, DPT ’13, and Erica Ziverts, DPT ’13. The department’s Leadership Award was given to Caitlin Sureck, DPT ’13. Rachel Lauren Hawe, DPT ’13, Saturday’s only graduate who is also part of the groundbreaking DPT/PhD (Eng) Program, was recognized as the 2013 Dean’s Feinberg DPT/PhD Scholar.

Physician Assistant Class of 2013

The 28 members of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Physician Assistant (PA) Program Class of 2013 earned their Master of Medical Science degrees on Saturday, May 18.

Raymond Curry, MD, vice dean for education, welcomed family and friends and thanked the graduates of the program, which had recently received continued accreditation.

“You had the confidence to recognize the potential of this program and for that we thank you,” Curry said. “As our second graduating class, you will assume different positions of visibility and leadership in the community and profession. You will come to represent this program and establish its reputation … you will become the face of this program.”

After the national anthem, James Van Rhee, MS, PA-C, associate professor and director of the PA program, introduced commencement speaker Jim Delaney, PA-C, president of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

PA graduation 2013

“I encourage you to volunteer your time and expertise serving the medical and underserved communities in the country and throughout the world. I encourage you to become a mentor and a preceptor for current and future students so they can follow in your footsteps and also become healthcare providers,” Delaney said. “I encourage you to consider becoming educators and PA program administrators to continue to provide quality education and to expand the vision of moving this profession to new levels.”

Van Rhee gave special recognition to Stephanie Brooke Cohen, MMS ’13, and Shannon Elizabeth Crabtree, MMS ’13, for their research projects. Cohen studied the use of narrow band UVB phototherapy to treat psoriasis and the associated risk of skin cancer, and Crabtree investigated the prevention of acute kidney injury in high-risk patients with low doses of fenoldopam. He thanked class leaders, Sincer Kurian Jacob, MMS ’13, class president; Ann Cameron Haley, MMS ’13, vice-president; and Sarah W. Albarran, MMS ’13, secretary, for their commitment. He also presented Kunjal Sanjay Kadiwala, MMS ’13, with the PA Program Academic Award.

Lisa Anne Werner, MMS ’13, served as the class speaker. During her address, she shared her experiences as a humanitarian aid worker in Afghanistan and how it related to her experience as a PA student.

“The lessons we learned in Afghanistan: one, embrace dependence on the people around you; two, treat your patients like guests; three, embrace a vision bigger than yourself … Friends, let us not forget that in the privacy of the exam room, our patients share their secrets and their fears with us. This is a sacred and precious gift,” she said.

Van Rhee echoed these thoughts in his closing remarks, “As a physician assistant you now have the responsibility to care for others to the best of your ability. This responsibility does not end at the office. Take this responsibility and trust very seriously and you will have a most enjoyable and fulfilling career.”