Together, At Last | Harvard Medical School

Farcasanu will head to Cambridge Health Alliance for her residency in family medicine, a specialty that she didn’t know existed until two years ago. She was attracted to family medicine for the way it allows doctors to be themselves with their patients, and build strong relationships over time.

“It’s wonderful to be somebody’s go-to person, even to answer the question of, ‘should I be worried?’ and to be able to say, ‘no’” she explained.

HMS graduate Betzamel Lopez proudly carried a small flag from the Dominican Republic, a nod to the country where she was born and raised. She will move to Florida after graduation for her residency in otolaryngology, or head and neck surgery, at the University of Miami/Jackson Health System.

Lopez said she always knew that she wanted to be a surgeon.

“I love the immediacy of surgery. There is a tumor, we take it out, and you’re cured,” she explained.

But it was during medical school that she was drawn to treating the head and neck region of the body.

“In my opinion it has the most beautiful anatomy,” she said. “There are so many holes and connections, and for patients with head and neck cancer, we do big surgeries that save their lives.” 

Degrees and research

This year, HMS named 157 Doctors of Medicine, 45 of whom also earned master’s or doctoral degrees. HSDM named 37 Doctors of Medicine in Dentistry and eight Doctors of Medical Science, and awarded16 master’s degrees to its graduates.

During their medical training, graduates also conducted research on a wide array of topics, as they delved into cancer drug costs, explored better ways to model heart disease, investigated rates of melanoma among veterans, and studied the symptoms of long COVID.

As student speakers from the medical and dental schools addressed their classmates, they recalled what it was like to earn their degrees during the COVID-19 pandemic, from learning the fundamentals of dentistry over Zoom in their childhood bedrooms to anxiously awaiting updates on when they could return to campus. 

“Coronavirus turned the world as we knew it upside down, forcing us to confront unpredictable change and uncertainty. Yet, being away from campus never stopped us from fighting tooth and nail for the things that drove us to medicine and dentistry,” said HSDM Class President Praveen Kumar Guntaka, who described growing up in a small village in Southern India, where the closest doctor was over two hours by bus, and dentistry didn’t exist at all.

“From social justice activism during the Black Lives Matter movement, to tackling health inequities during the global pandemic, our actions would shape these pivotal years,” Guntaka added.

“We came together through education, introspection, difficult conversations, and most importantly, through collective action,” he said.

HMS student speaker Samuel Lyon challenged his fellow doctors to always remain focused on caring for the whole person, no matter the circumstances.

“Behind every interaction is a story, a journey, a life. Even though we are headed into a business of science, technology, and art, ultimately, it’s a business of human interaction,” he said.

He offered his advice as a father of three children who served three tours in Afghanistan, calling himself the “old man” of the graduating class.

“Never forget that you’re treating the patient, but you’re healing the person,” he said.

In his Class Day remarks, HMS Dean George Q. Daley reiterated the many challenges that the graduates have faced over the course of the pandemic, but also pointed out that COVID-19 has also imparted valuable lessons. 

“The pandemic has awakened you to the central importance of social determinants of health,” he said. “You’ve advocated that compassionate health care and the fruits of modern science—innovative vaccines and medications—should be accessible to everyone.”

Daley charged the graduates with continuing to strive for change in the U.S. health care system and health care systems worldwide.

“Our society desperately needs energetic, passionate minds like yours to couple scientific rigor with compassion, to wield clinical expertise to advance health equity and justice,” he told the graduates. “We need you—the next generation—to be evangelists for truth and peace.”

To close the ceremony, the graduates stood and recited the Hippocratic oath, promising to serve their patients, and affirming their commitment to medicine. 

Daley offered final words of congratulations, and the students cheered. They were together, at last, and ready to take on the world.