Graduates honored for health work

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences hosted family, friends and colleagues in a celebration May 14, recognizing graduating undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students as they set foot into the health care community.

Several faculty members spoke to the graduates in Lisner Auditorium, praising their accomplishments and urging them to continue to keep open minds and embrace opportunities throughout their careers. They reminded graduates of the pivotal roles they will play as health care professionals.

“I like to think we are part of a community, like a family of professionals who play an increasingly important role in our nation’s health care system,” Margaret Plack, interim senior associate dean for health sciences, said in opening remarks.

She praised the graduates for their many achievements and contributions to the field.

“Earning a degree in health sciences really truly says it’s more than just a degree. It says a lot about who you are and your commitment to helping others in leading healthy and productive lives,” Plack said.

Jeffrey Akman, the interim vice provost for health affairs and dean of the medical school, encouraged students to make the most of their future careers.

“I can tell you that your hard work will pay off,” Akman said. “You will find your careers in the health sciences extremely rewarding, and I wish you every success in whatever path you take.”

The focus of the ceremony was on the students and their accomplishments. Several were recognized for exceptional performance and service, including two who were honored with the school’s annual outstanding student awards.

Delisa Abednego, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science, received the outstanding undergraduate student award. The graduate honoree, Katherine Capozzi, who earned a master’s degree in health science in the physician assistant program, was not present at the ceremony.

These awards are given to students who demonstrate extraordinary achievement in academic performance, clinical work, community service and collaboration among peers, Plack said while introducing the honorees.

“What was certain was that I came here to the United States, to George Washington University, to seek the knowledge that George Washington spoke of. Remember, he said that knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness,” Abednego said. “This prestigious university has given me not only profound knowledge, but authentic happiness as well.”

She continued to say “this happiness is constructed upon a sense of accomplishment…of every student standing before me in a cap and gown and a sense of hope and of prosperity for the future.”

Elizabeth Ciurylo, who received a doctorate in physical therapy, was awarded the alumni association prize for exceptional leadership in academics and dedication to the University and its community.

“Each of us has a story we remember that we treasure about what started us on our journey, but these stories are just the foundations for what we are going to build ourselves. Throughout our careers in health care, I know that we will encounter more stories…you need to internalize these moments, small and big, because they become memories that motivate you on the not-so-good days,” Ciurylo said.

She urged her peers to follow their dreams rather than stick to rigid paths.

“You are meant to move and to experience new things to make you the best professional that you possibly can be,” Ciurylo said.

Following loud applause for the award recipients and the conferring of degrees, Plack presented the official charge to the graduates, advising them to step out of their comfort zones and live in the moment.

“If I had let my own predetermined goals be my only focus and my own self-doubt get the best of me,” Plack said. “I would have missed out on a lifetime of amazing students and wonderful colleagues.”

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