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Commencement 2022

“Never stop being a student.” Commencement ceremonies celebrate Class of 2022’s tenacity and leadership.

Video: Huy Mach/Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

Graduates, faculty, family and friends celebrated the 161st Washington University Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 20, 2022, with hooding ceremonies recognizing graduates of individual programs on Thursday and Friday.

Scroll below for coverage of School of Medicine Commencement ceremonies, or jump to the ceremony for graduates of:

All-University Ceremony

A large group of graduates in green regalia hold a flag that says "Medicine" and smile, some pointing to an object outside of the frame.

Gathering on the historic Francis Olympic Field at the Washington University Danforth Campus, graduates of all university programs heard remarks from keynote speaker Mae C. Jemison, MD. Jemison is an engineer, physician and futurist, and she is the first woman of color to travel into space. Weaving realism with optimism, she encouraged graduates to be intentional about the perspectives they assume and the choices they make. Despite the world’s upheavals and instabilities, said Jemison, “There is an amazing amount of hope. … And you embody that.”

Following her address, Jemison was hooded with an honorary Doctor of Science from Washington University.

Also among the honorary degree recipients was physiologist Brian Kobilka, MD. Kobilka is a world-renowned scientist at Stanford University whose discoveries have become central to novel drug development. A recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Kobilka is one of 19 Nobel Prize winners associated with the School of Medicine. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Washington University School of Medicine and what was then Barnes Hospital.

Following the conferral of degrees, Chancellor Andrew D. Martin, PhD, addressed the graduates. Martin emphasized that the pandemic has demonstrated that the best question to ask oneself is not what you want to be, but who you want to be. “It’s the difference between putting your energy into cultivating an identity, and instead putting it into building a life of integrity,” he said. “And it’s a question for a lifetime.”

Click a photo below to enlarge.

MD Ceremony

Graduates of Doctor of Medicine programs were hooded at an evening ceremony on Friday, May 20, at Francis Olympic Field.

Keynote speaker: Carla Pugh, MD, PhD

Carla Pugh, MD, PhD, of Stanford University School of Medicine delivered the keynote remarks. Pugh is the Thomas Krummel Professor of Surgery and director of the Technology Enabled Clinical Improvement Center at Stanford University. She holds multiple patents on the use of technology including artificial intelligence to measure hands-on clinical skills, and last year she was inducted into the National Academy of Medicine for her pioneering research.

Pugh shared the risks and rewards of her own learning journey, which included a “major career detour” after completing her surgical residency to pursue a doctoral degree in education and technology. Pugh was frustrated by the lack of accessibility and interoperability between records and databases in her surgical training, and despite those who questioned her unusual detour into education, she was determined to forge a path to find a solution.

“Innovation can be isolating,” said Pugh. “People will not always understand or believe in your passion, but it is up to you to honor your passion and give it meaning so that others will partner with you. Use storytelling, elevator pitches, marketing tools … anything that can help facilitate collaboration and success.”

Pugh’s detour — one she says was essential to her learning journey — did lead to success, paving the way for a digital transformation of clinical learning. She urged the graduates to commit to their own learning journeys: “Take stock of the high accolades, and be purposeful in hacking a pathway that addresses the risks. Take stock in who you are. Build bridges, friendships and collaborations that will help you to hack your way across the valleys that stand in the way of success. And continuously perfect and share the elevator pitch that sells your dreams for the benefit of your patients and our health care system.”

Teacher of the Year Awards

Doctor of Medicine graduate Neel Raval, MD, presented the Teacher of the Year Awards. Justin Sadhu, MD, professor of medicine, was selected the Pre-Clinical Teacher of the Year. Michael Awad, MD, PhD, professor of surgery, was named the Sydney S. Pearl, MD, Clinical Teacher of the Year.

Dean’s remarks: David H. Perlmutter, MD

In remarks that focused on continual growth and improvement, David H. Perlmutter, MD, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine and executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, told the graduates that the key to solving our most complex problems is the understanding that we have never reached the height of our knowledge or powers.

“I have been in leadership in academic medicine for more than 30 years, and now that I have seen what was needed to respond to the worst health care crisis in a century, I am convinced that there is one quality that makes all the difference, one piece of advice that I can give you as you move on in your careers: Never stop being a student.”

Perlmutter encouraged graduates to cultivate their “beginner’s mind” — a concept captured by the Japanese Zen term shoshin — by being open to ideas that run counter to what they may believe. “It is thought of as a way to prevent yourself from being dogmatic. … (If you) think of yourself as a perpetual learner, you may find that you can more easily adapt to new situations and more capably tackle unforeseen problems.”

In moments with potential for growth, whether times of crisis or mundanity, he said, it is essential to know what you don’t know.

“We are at our best, we are able to live up to our greatest potential, when we think of ourselves as unfinished and capable of being better.”

What MD graduate Morgan Pfeiffer learned from donating her kidney

When she was still an undergraduate, Morgan Pfeiffer volunteered to donate one of her kidneys to the 17-month-old grandson of her former babysitter. The 17-month-old is now 6 years old and thriving. And Morgan, inspired by and grounded in her experience as a donor, is about to start her residency in pediatrics.

Read the Class Act »

Photos by Matt Miller. Click to enlarge.

Audiology & Communication Sciences

The Program in Audiology & Communication Sciences (PACS) awarded 22 degrees to graduates from the master’s in deaf education and doctor of audiology programs. Family, friends, faculty and colleagues joined in person and online to cheer on the Class of 2022.

Amanda Ortmann, PhD, director of audiology studies and assistant professor of otolaryngology, opened the ceremony by celebrating the graduates’ bright futures. “This afternoon, we recognize these professionals not only for what they have accomplished, but also for what they will do when they leave us,” she explained. “This is, after all, a Commencement ceremony recognizing their preparation, but more importantly, the path that they have set for themselves in choosing careers as teachers for the deaf or clinical audiologists.”

Two graduating students received special recognition during the ceremony. Katherine Linnea Zawislak, MSDE, was honored with the Antoinette Frances Dames Award, which recognizes outstanding scholarship in teaching the hearing impaired. Courtney Lynn Kroeger, AuD, received the Max A. Goldstein Award for excellence and professional promise. PACS faculty voted for the recipients of both awards.

Zawislak is among eight graduates receiving a master’s in deaf education, which prepares students to teach children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Kroeger and 13 of her classmates received doctor of audiology degrees, a training program for independent clinical audiologists.

Closing the ceremony, Casey Reimer, PhD, interim director of deaf education studies and assistant professor of otolaryngology, welcomed the graduates to the program’s global network of alumni. “Through your diligence and dedication, you have risen from the ranks of students to professional colleagues,” she shared. “We look forward to celebrating your future accomplishments and continuing our relationships with each one of you, only now as alumni and colleagues — and, as always, as friends.”

Biology & Biological Sciences

Graduates of doctoral programs in the Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences (DBBS) were recognized at the College of Arts & Sciences Graduate Studies Hooding and Recognition Ceremony. The ceremony was held on Thursday, May 19, in Wrighton Hall on the Danforth Campus.

Adia Harvey Wingfield, PhD, vice dean of faculty development and diversity and the Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor of Arts & Sciences, addressed the graduates, which included master’s and doctoral students in all Arts & Sciences departments and programs.

“Work like you have something to prove,” Harvey Wingfield told the graduates. “And use that as motivation to make the environments you encounter after this one better spaces for yourself and for others.”

Occupational Therapy

The ceremony for the Program in Occupational Therapy recognized graduates of its 104th class, which included 53 receiving the doctor of occupational therapy, 39 earning the master of science in occupational therapy and two graduates receiving the doctor of philosophy in rehabilitation and participation science. Olivia Lysette DePaul was class marshal for the doctoral degree graduates; Oliver Grey Carnazzo was class marshal for graduates of the master’s degree program.

Lisa Tabor Connor, PhD, MSOT, OTR/L, the Elias Michael Executive Director of the Program in Occupational Therapy, opened the celebration. She reminded graduates that earning a degree during the pandemic forced them to adjust, adapt and remain flexible, and that the same skills would be required of them throughout their careers. “I speak for the faculty and staff when I say that we are all proud of your accomplishments and appreciate the experience to have grown with you.”

The program’s commencement speaker was Jeff Butler, a two-time wheelchair rugby Paralympic medalist who works as an advocate for people with disabilities, ability coach, speaker and entrepreneur. After a spinal cord injury roughly 20 years ago at the age of 13, Butler traveled by air ambulance from his native Indiana to St. Louis for treatment. He underwent spinal fusion surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and intensive occupational and physical therapy at the Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis.

Through that experience, he said, he learned that adversity presents opportunity. “This thing that seemed so awful turned into the single most powerful and formative moment of my life. Sometimes your life is going to be really hard. When that time comes, take a step back and look for opportunities in the challenges you are facing. Because you never know when that challenge and your response might just be the most powerful and formative moment of your life.”

He also emphasized that the graduates would have a huge impact on the lives of their patients, just as his occupational therapist had for him.

Faculty speaker Steven Taff, PhD, OTR/L, FNAP, FAOTA, associate professor of occupational therapy and of medicine, noted that today’s graduates would forge their careers among global challenges — among them racism, misinformation, war, pandemic, resource scarcity and climate change. He urged them to advocate not only for their patients, but for their patients’ larger communities, because “individual wellbeing and community and global wellbeing are inextricably linked.”

Student speakers were Stephen Lau from the PhD program, Stephanie Judycki from the doctor of occupational therapy program and Meagan Proffit from the master’s degree program.

Lau encouraged his fellow graduates to be persistent in the face of adversity and failure, because they are learning opportunities — noting with humor that he failed his GRE English exam four times before finally passing. “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end. … Take responsibility for your failures, but never let them define you.”

Judycki described her fellow graduates as stars shining in the sky. “I challenge you all to never stop dreaming and to never stop learning. The sky is not the limit. It is just the beginning.”

The world needs occupational therapists, said Proffit. “It needs us to come with humble eagerness to learn, to share, to create together a more accessible, equitable and beautiful world.”

Physical Therapy

Gammon M. Earhart, PT, PhD, FAPTA, director of the Program in Physical Therapy, addressed the 83 doctoral candidates at the hooding ceremony before introducing faculty speaker Jill Johnson, PT, DPT, assistant professor of physical therapy. Johnson, an alumnus of the Program (DPT ’06), was chosen to speak by the Class of 2022.

Among the graduates were Andrew Fardin Jazbani, DPT, recognized for excellence in clinical education with the Beatrice Schulz Award; Elizabeth Hannah Tolmich-Searle, DPT, recognized for exceptional contributions in research with the Steven J. Rose Research Award; and Taylor Marie Burlis, DPT, recipient of the Director’s Award for outstanding and impactful presence in the classroom, clinic and/or community.

Alyssa Lincoln, DPT, was chosen by her peers to be the student speaker.

Steve Ambler, PT, DPT, PhD, MPH, director of education, presented the graduates of the professional clinical doctorate curriculum.

Applied Health Behavior Research, & Health Information and Data Science

Graduates of the Master of Science Applied Health Behavior Research (AHBR), Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics, Master of Science in Biostatistics (MSIBS), and Master of Science in Biostatistics and Data Science (MSBDS) were recognized at a Joint Commencement Ceremony and Reception. Degrees in biomedical informatics and biostatistics are part of the Office of Health Information and Data Science (OHIDS).

The joint ceremony, held May 19 in Moore Auditorium, included remarks by dean of education Eva Aagaard, MD, AHBR program director Amy McQueen, PhD, and associate dean for health information and data science Philip R. O. Payne, PhD. Master of science graduate Savannah Jefferis-Henriques, delivered the student remarks.

Clinical Investigation, Medical Physics, Population Health Sciences, & TL1

The CRTC Joint Commencement and Recognition Ceremony held Thursday, May 19, recognized graduates of the Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI) , Master of Science in Medical Physics (MSMP), Master of Population Health Sciences (MPHS), and the TL1 Predoctoral Clinical Research Program. The Clinical Research Training Center (CRTC) is the educational core of the educational core of the Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences (ICTS).

Speakers included dean of education Eva Aagaard, MD, and Bill Powderly, MD, Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Sciences, Co-director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and J. William Campbell Professor of Medicine.

MSCI Outstanding Scholar Awards went to Alexandra Zdonczyk, Martin Gregory and Melissa Berrien-Elliott, PhD. Karen Dodson, PhD, and Dorina Kallogjeri, MD, MPH, were recognized as MSCI Course Directors of the Year. And Andrej Spec, MD, MSCI, and Jay PIccirillo, MD, FACS, were named MSCI Mentors of the Year.