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FAU Celebrates 10 Years of Conferring M.D. Degrees

FAU's Schmidt College of Medicine celebrated the nation's newest physicians and biomedical researchers during the commencement ceremony, which marked 10 years of conferring M.D. degrees.

Medical School, Commencement

Today, Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine celebrated 10 years of commencement ceremonies in the Carole and Barry Kaye Auditorium . Family, friends, faculty and other guests joined in on this long-anticipated day as graduates walked across the stage to be “hooded” – a symbolic rite of passage from one generation of physicians to the next – and to receive their Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degrees. The members of the class of 2024 are among the nation’s newest physicians.   

With Florida expected to be short nearly 18,000 physicians by the year 2035, the event was welcoming news for the state’s public health. In March, during Match Day, the members of the class of 2024 matched for residency programs, which are required for physicians to become board certified.

This year, for the first time, FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine jointly celebrated medical school graduates and graduates from the biomedical sciences program. The ceremony embodied the future of both the delivery of health care and scientific research to address diseases and conditions that afflict humans worldwide.  

“To all of our graduates today, you are trailblazers who stand at the threshold of an exciting journey that awaits you,” said Curtis Whitehair, M.D., dean, FAU Schmidt College of Medicine. “Today is a significant milestone that will forever be etched in your hearts whether you are on the path to becoming a board-certified physician or advancing as a researcher. We are profoundly proud of your achievements and your ability to adapt and persevere during a time of uncertainty as the entire world adapted to the pandemic. This unique blend of experiences has prepared you for the ever-evolving landscape of health care and science and you are well-equipped to navigate the future.”

This year’s keynote address was delivered by Nicolas Heft, M.D., an emergency medicine physician, a graduate of FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine (2019), a graduate of the United States Air Force Special Warfare Medical Officer Course, and co-founder and inaugural fellow of the University of Texas Houston Space Medicine Fellowship, created to produce physician-engineers. The program focuses on overcoming the limitations of traditional aerospace medicine training pathways and adapting to the changing needs of the commercial space flight industry.  

“I suspect many among us here today have not appreciated the fact that we are on a spacecraft right now, hurtling through the cosmos. Spaceship Earth, you might call it. All of us are already astronauts on the most beautiful and hospitable spacecraft ever designed,” said Heft. “I have no doubt each and everyone one of you will pursue your dreams and carry the torch forward for the next generation. As America’s first astronaut Alan Shepherd once said, ‘let’s light this candle.’”

In line with the medical school’s mission, 48% of the class of 2024 will conduct their residency in Florida, and 41% will specialize in primary care including internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics. The class of 2024 also matched in some of the most competitive specialties including psychiatry, orthopedic surgery, dermatology, plastic surgery, urology, and a triple board specialty in pediatrics/psychiatry/ child psychiatry, among others. 

“We are incredibly proud of our class of 2024 for their tenacity, hard work, dedication and unwavering commitment to pursuing medical excellence during one of modern history’s most challenging times in medicine and the delivery of health care,” said Jennifer Caceres, M.D., senior associate dean for student affairs and admissions and an associate professor of medicine, FAU Schmidt College of Medicine. “The pandemic did not deter nor diminish their desire to serve humanity, and today, we celebrate this pivotal achievement and the vast skills and knowledge the class of 2024 will bring into the medical field and our communities.”

The class of 2024 has several exemplary students who have been inducted into both the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society, the national medical honor society, and the Gold Humanism Honor Society, a national honor society that recognizes senior medical students and others for excellence in clinical care, leadership, compassion and dedication to service.

Among these students are Sarah Girshfeld, Kaylynn Blackstad and Oghosa Urhoghide. Girshfeld provided numerous community volunteer service hours at several organizations and served as the curriculum representative for the class of 2024, helping to enhance the curriculum. As a former National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I athlete she brings a team approach to her day-to-day activities. She will start her residency in emergency medicine at UC Davis Medical Center. Passionate about creating safe environments for others, especially children, Blackstad will start a triple board residency program in pediatrics/ psychiatry/ child psychiatry at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. Committed to teaching, Urhoghide served as a tutor throughout her undergraduate career and as a tutor and mentor while in medical school. Her community contributions include encouraging women in medicine, volunteering at free clinics and arranging fundraisers and community events. Urhoghide will start an anesthesiology residency program at Mass General Brigham – Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital.

Among the various Florida institutions where the class of 2024 placed are FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine; Broward Health Medical Center; Memorial Healthcare System; University of Miami/Jackson Health System; University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine; University of Miami Miller School of Medicine/Holy Cross; University of Florida College of Medicine – Shands Hospital; HCA Florida Orange Park Hospital; HCA Healthcare East Florida Division GME; and University of Central Florida/HCA Healthcare GME.

The class of 2024 also placed in several other top institutions nationally, including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center; UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles; Rush University Medical Center in Chicago; Baylor College of Medicine in Houston; New York-Presbyterian; and University of Virginia in Charlottesville.