The students were slated to be the inaugural class of the CUNY School of Medicine at The City College of New York (CSOM) when they joined the Sophie Davis Biomedical Education Program directly from area high schools in 2013. The program is an entry point of an accelerated undergraduate biomedical curriculum that would seamlessly transition them through their medical school training culminating in a Bachelor of Science and an accredited medical degree in seven years. But this spring, as they neared completion of the clinical component of their training, the COVID-19 crisis struck and they found themselves graduating early – as did other NYC medical school students -- so they could enter the workforce just as their skills and training were in unprecedented demand.
“The CUNY School of Medicine is truly New York City’s medical school and today you are making history for New York City, the City University and the College, and the school of medicine,” said Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodriguez who joined the medical students, their family and friends, and the School’s faculty in graduation celebrations broadcast via Zoom on April 13. “You are an inspiration because you are the best kind of over-achievers – those with a profound sense of service and a deep commitment to eradicating inequities in health care.”
CSOM is regarded as the gold standard for recruiting students from populations underrepresented in medicine to practice in underserved areas. Its curriculum emphasizes a compassionate, community approach to care that emphasizes the health of all – especially those in the most vulnerable segments of society.
“This is a moment where your specific skills are essential and are being called into service,” said City College of New York President Vincent Boudreau also spoke to the students via Zoom. “The course of study (at the medical school) focuses on the intersection of race, class, and the kind of care one receives. I have a deep respect for the work you are about to embark upon.”
In her welcoming remarks CSOM’s Interim Dean Erica Friedman, M.D reiterated that the nature of the pandemic underscored the importance of the school’s social mission. “The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on people of color, those with few resources and those with no or inadequate health insurance,” she said to the students. “It places special importance on your dedication to addressing health inequities... We are enormously proud of each and every one of you and are confident that you’ll make a huge difference in the lives of your patients and communities.”
With the demand for primary physicians growing faster than supply, CSOM continues its tradition of helping fill this gap with 48 percent of this year’s graduating class entering into their selected primary care residency programs. Seventy-eight percent of the students in this year’s graduating class will be joining the medical staff at New York City-area hospitals.
Following a digital yearbook presentation featuring a brief profile of each of the 46 students and a “throwback” video of their seven-year journey, Dr. Friedman closed the virtual proceedings with a toast to the students: “May your lives be filled with joy, hope, and professional and personal reward.”
The commencement ceremony with the hooding of students will take place online on May 21 from 11 AM to 1 PM marking the final milestone before entering their respective residency programs.