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New School of Medicine graduate Stephen Wahl is hooded by his mother, Dr. Nancy Wahl, associate professor of pediatric emergency medicine.
New School of Medicine graduate Stephen Wahl is hooded by his mother, Dr. Nancy Wahl, associate professor of pediatric emergency medicine.
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UMMC confers 930 degrees in health sciences professions

Published on Friday, May 25, 2018

Media Contact: Ruth Cummins

JACKSON, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Medical Center on Friday conferred degrees to 930 students who are beginning their careers in the health sciences, or entering into a new chapter of an existing one in this state and beyond.

The graduates of the schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, Nursing, and Health Related Professions are leaving campus with the aim of improving health and quality of life. They were recognized during UMMC’s 62nd Commencement at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.

Of this year’s graduates, 677 attended commencement and received their diplomas.

UMMC's Class of 2018 processes into the Mississippi Coliseum on the Fairgrounds in Jackson. Of this year's 930 graduates, 677 attended commencement to receive their diplomas.
UMMC's Class of 2018 processes into the Mississippi Coliseum on the Fairgrounds in Jackson. Of this year's 930 graduates, 677 attended commencement to receive their diplomas.

“Graduates, there are four things that I want you to take with you,” Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, told students.

“One, this is a milestone. It is not the end,” Woodward said. “In fact, this is only the beginning of your learning process. As you go forward, you will learn from one another and you will learn from the greatest teachers of all – the patients.

“Two, you will make choices every day that will impact others in a significant way. Deal with others and those you serve with a deep respect for our differences,” she said. “Chose respect. Choose kindness. Choose courage.

“Three, our nation will continue to struggle with ways to care for the sick. Be a part of the solution to this struggle. In all things, leave it better than you found it.

“Four, you will never practice any health profession well if you don’t have a good time doing it,” Woodward said. “The work before you is hard. It is important. It is heavy. And, it’s rewarding and it is worth doing. Remember the excitement, the spirit, the passion you have today.

“Look for the joy. Have a good time.”

Julianne Ranis is exuberant after receiving her bachelor of science in nursing during UMMC commencement ceremonies.
Julianne Ranis is exuberant after receiving her bachelor of science in nursing during UMMC commencement ceremonies.

Among those receiving diplomas was Claire Harkey of Ridgeland, a School of Medicine graduate who on July 1 begins her residency in pediatrics at the Medical Center. Acting, not medicine, had been on her mind since she was a kindergartener. “I loved being on stage and being dramatic,” she said. “That was my life’s dream for the longest time.”

But after several years in New York didn’t launch that career, she returned to Mississippi, graduating from Millsaps College, but still not going into medicine. She spent a year in Honduras as a teacher.

Even so, a History of Medicine course she took at Millsaps had piqued her interest in becoming a physician. She was accepted into the medical school before she made her way back from Honduras.

Dr. Louis Harkey, professor of neurosurgery and Claire’s father, draped her hood over her shoulders during the commencement ceremony. “For four years I’ve watched her go through the process I did three or four decades ago,” Harkey said. “I’ve watched her struggle, and I’ve watched her succeed.

“To have her walk across the stage and receive the diploma ….I’m getting to do what I’ve envied my colleagues doing for many years.”

The University of Mississippi in Oxford and UMMC together enrolled 23,780 students this school year, 20,351 in Oxford, 2,890 at the Medical Center, and 1,220 at other campuses, said University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter.

School of Dentistry graduates Maureen Malingkas, left, and Jiman Nelson take a celebratory selfie.
School of Dentistry graduates Maureen Malingkas, left, and Jiman Nelson take a celebratory selfie.

“Those of you who will receive your degrees today and soon begin practicing the healing arts share a common legacy with all who have gone before you, and that is a mark of quality,” Vitter said. “We’re confident that you’re well prepared for your next steps of training, or to assume your responsibility as a health care provider.”

The Medical Center’s faculty “challenged you and demanded your best,” Vitter told students. “You likely thought at times that they were too demanding. But very soon, when you compare your preparation at our health sciences campus with that of other students across the nation, you’ll find out how very fortunate you are to have been their students.”

Among the degrees conferred:

School of Medicine, 134 graduates receiving the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree.

School of Dentistry, 52 graduates receiving the Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree and 18 graduates receiving the Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene.

School of Nursing, 414 graduates receiving either the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.), Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.), or Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.)

School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, 97 graduates receiving either the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree or the Master of Science (M.S.) degree.

School of Health Related Professions, 233 graduates receiving either the Doctorate in Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) or Doctorate in Health Administration (D.H.A.); Master of Occupational Therapy (M.O.T.); Master of Science (M.S.) in Health Sciences, Health Informatics and Information Management, Magnetic Resonance Imaging or Nuclear Technology; or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Radiologic Sciences, Medical Laboratory Science, Health Sciences, or Health Informatics and Information Management.

Among those receiving accolades was Dr. Amol Janorkar, professor of biomedical materials science in the School of Dentistry and the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences. He is winner of the 2018 Regions TEACH Prize, given to the person who most represents the highest qualities of the Medical Center's academic faculty.

The six students who received top honors were:

Hadley Jo Pearson, Waller S. Leathers Award for the medical student with the highest academic average for four years;

Andrew Ngoc Tran, Wallace V. Mann Jr. Award for the dental student with the highest academic average for four years;

Luke Anderson LeBlanc, Christine L. Oglevee Memorial Award for the outstanding School of Nursing baccalaureate graduate;

Lila Robin, Richard N. Graves Award for the registered nurse deemed most outstanding by the faculty in clinical and overall performance;

Lauren Marie Seal, Dr. Virginia Stansel Tolbert award for the student with the highest academic average in the School of Health Related Professions.

Kasi Christine McPherson, Marshal of the Class, Robert A. Mahaffey Jr. Memorial Award to recognize exceptional research potential of young investigators.