The first group of full-time Phoenix-based University of Arizona medical students walked out of the Phoenix Art Museum on Thursday night, May 12, 2011, as physicians.
Degrees were conferred on the first class of 24 students at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix by Meredith Hay, executive vice president and provost of UA, and then the students recited the oath they developed when they entered the downtown Phoenix medical school in July 2007 to cap a ceremony that included speeches from world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Spetzler, campus leadership and graduating student Casey Solem.
"I want to thank the state of Arizona, the Board of Regents, the University of Arizona and the city of Phoenix for making this college not only a possibility but a priority, and making it the success it is today," Solem said.
"I want to thank the administration and faculty, especially those who were around four-and-a-half years ago when they took a chance on each of us, each the 24 of us, and gave us the opportunity to be part of the inaugural class," said Solem, who was chosen by his classmates to represent the group. "And then, to each of my classmates, today, who stand here, who also took a chance, a chance on a school that at that time was much newer and much smaller than it is today."
Solem, a Scottsdale native whose father has been an emergency room physician, will be an emergency department resident at University Medical Center in Tucson beginning this summer.
His speech was followed by remarks from Spetzler, director of the Barrow Neurological Institute of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center and one of the world's most renowned neurosurgeons specializing in the treatment of cerebrovascular disease.
Thursday's event also included the traditional hooding ceremony and the recitation of an oath. The students invoked the oath they had written before the group began classes in July 2007 and will be the oath taken by each succeeding class at the College of Medicine-Phoenix.
The oath says, in part, "We will stay true to our profession, our values, our morality and our personal ethics. May we be courageous enough to admit to and to learn from our mistakes. We commit to lives of practice and learning, to living artfully and with passion. Let us always remember the excitement and awe that we feel at this moment."
Solem echoed the oath in his remarks, saying, "I think one of the things that our campus did a fabulous job of developing in us was our ability to understand, to take time to understand our patients, to get to know them as people and to ‘go there' with them, as opposed to just shuffling their feelings and emotions to the side."
The 24 students entered in 2007 after the school was quickly begun as a way for the state to address the critical shortage of physicians in Arizona. More than half of the first cohort of graduates will be staying in Arizona for their residencies.
"Graduates of the Class of 2011," Dr. Stuart Flynn, dean of the College of Medicine-Phoenix, said during the ceremony. "Although you are still quite close to the intensity of medical school, I do hope you can reflect back on your years here and appreciate the immense role you played in starting a new medical school and how much your school embraced and will continue to embrace you as family."
The graduation culminates the four years of classroom and clinical instruction medical students received in Phoenix, which previously had been the largest city in the nation without an allopathic (MD-granting) medical school.
All 24 students passed their board exams and were matched to residency programs in March. More than half will be training in Arizona and 16 of the 24 will be in primary care programs.
"As you can tell," Flynn said. "This class entered special and have proven themselves special collectively for four years. I could go on, but I think it best to share that this class is nicely accomplished and set the bar appropriately high for subsequent classes at the College of Medicine."
The four-year-old downtown Phoenix campus currently has 168 students training in the historic former Phoenix Union High School buildings with that number set to grow to 192 in August. The class size will increase again in July 2012 with the completion of the Health Sciences Education Building.
The University is constructing the next phase of development with a 268,000-square-foot, $129 million structure that will house an expanded College of Medicine-Phoenix, an expansion of the College of Pharmacy and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.
A new physician's assistant program, under the auspices of the Northern Arizona University College of Health and Human Services, also will be based in the new building.
Courtesy of Al Bravo, UA College of Medicine-Phoenix