Zucker School of Medicine marks sixth commencement
HEMPSTEAD, NY — Recent graduates at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell participated in a virtual ceremony held on Monday, May 11— a month after they officially became doctors and joined front-line health care workers to respond to the global coronavirus pandemic.
“This is not the commencement that we all imagined for you,” stated Stuart Rabinowitz, President of Hofstra University. “But you know, better than anyone, how COVID-19 has changed our lives in countless ways.”
Rabinowitz, in addition to Michael Dowling, President and CEO of Northwell Health, and Lawrence G. Smith, MD, MACP, Dean of the Zucker School of Medicine, presided over the school’s virtual commencement proceedings.
“This ceremony represents an opportunity for our community to celebrate the huge accomplishments our students have made during their time with us,” explained Jodi Langsfeld, MSEd, Associate Dean for Student Affairs. “We saw them arrive, nervous but excited, ready for their first day of medical school, watched them take the Hippocratic Oath during their White Coat Ceremony, and now we’re able to proudly celebrate our new physicians as they reach the culmination of their medical school experience.”
Dr. Lawrence Smith, the school’s founding dean, also commented on the graduates’ journey. “Medical students and residents who’ve had the opportunity to work in the most disruptive environments, with dangerous illnesses, are different physicians because of that experience,” said Smith. “You worked and lived in the bullseye of this pandemic.”
Echoing remarks by Smith and Rabinowitz, Dowling said, “We’re entering a new world, with new rules. But this is a wonderful opportunity for you, as physicians and leaders, to redefine this new normal…. You have the chance to make an extraordinary difference.”
Many of these new doctors have been intimately involved in the fight against COVID-19 as a result of the directive from Governor Andrew Cuomo that allowed them to graduate early and begin working immediately. This year’s virtual commencement allowed students to experience the pomp and circumstance of a medical school graduation while still adhering to social distancing measures put in place throughout the country due to the pandemic.
“I am so proud of all of us,” exclaimed student speaker, Jasmine S. Sondhi, MD, during her commencement speech. “No virus can take away what we’ve accomplished!”
Totaling 102 students, the Zucker School of Medicine Class of 2020 features a diverse group of individuals with varied backgrounds and stories leading up to their experience in medicine, including career changers, like former middle school math teacher and Long Islander Christine Cummings, as well as a former Major League Baseball player Mark Hamilton, who was a regular season member of the 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.
“I was interested in social justice and accessibility issues from my time as a middle school math teacher,” stated Dr. Cummings. “Seeing the disparities in STEM tracks while teaching underserved communities is why it was important for me to attend a medical school that looks at the social determinants of health when treating a patient. I found that at Zucker, and again at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where I matched as a resident pediatrician.”
In July, Zucker School of Medicine 2020 alumni will enter residency programs within 19 different states and 23 specialty areas across the United States, including 30 newly minted physicians who will begin their careers at Northwell Health.