Medical school graduation 2020: Some pomp under unusual circumstances” is how the Association of American Medical Colleges described the virtual commencement ceremonies in May that helped launch over 20,000 new medical school graduates nationwide.

At UC Davis Health, ceremonies unlike any other in our history allowed medical and nursing students to participate in virtual celebrations from their homes, surrounded by friends and family.

School of Medicine Commencement

In May, the School of Medicine conferred 114 Doctor of Medicine degrees to its first class to graduate during a global pandemic. Thousands watched live on Zoom and Facebook Live, and social media ultimately carried commencement-related content to nearly 90,000 around the world.

“There is no more important time to be entering medicine,” Dean Allison Brashear told the students. “We know you will make a difference, some at the bedside, some at the lab, and some will bridge the two.”

Keynote speaker Jann Murray-García, M.D., M.P.H., health sciences clinical professor at the School of Nursing, implored graduates to stay connected and never lose sight of the vast health inequities that permeate society. And student speaker Tyler Carcamo, a soon-to-be surgery resident at UC Davis, expressed gratitude for the village of friends and family who raised him in Belize and Bakersfield.

The virtual ceremony also gave a quick glimpse into one of the medical school’s greatest strengths — diversity — as it opened a door into homes where students were hooded by generations of family members, often speaking in different languages. A recorded compilation video showed nearly 90 graduates reciting the physician’s oath in English and 12 other languages.

School of Nursing Virtual Celebration

In June, the School of Nursing lauded the accomplishments of 151 master’s-degree students and eight doctoral candidates during its own virtual celebration. The event included recorded comments from UC Davis and UC Davis Health leaders, as well as directors of the school’s five graduate-degree programs and student nominated speakers.

“The fact that (our students) have remained focused and on track during the coronavirus pandemic is a great testimony to the dedicated practitioners, clinicians, researchers and leaders they have become,” School of Nursing Dean Stephen Cavanagh told the virtual audience.

Master’s-degree leadership program grad Kristina Rodriguez said: “I know that in the past few weeks, many things have changed. We used our leadership skills to not only adapt to our circumstance, but to step up to the challenge.”

The Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Graduate Degree Programs include master’s degrees in leadership, family nurse practitioner, physician assistant studies and entry-level nursing, as well as a doctoral program.

COVID-19 had threatened to derail health professions students from graduating on time, when health systems that offer clinical experiences told them to steer clear until the worst had passed. But Cavanagh and the School of Nursing’s education team reached across campus to the School of Medicine, and within a few weeks future advanced practice providers — physician assistants (P.A.) and family nurse practitioners (FNP) on track to graduate this summer — reported for rotations at UC Davis Health clinics and departments.

School of Medicine Match Day 2020

The School of Medicine also hosted its first-ever virtual Match Day in March, uniting hundreds of students and supporters on Facebook Live to celebrate where soon-to-be doctors would be headed for residency.

The traditional “envelopes” came in the form of individual emails sent to 115 students on their smartphones, tablets and computers. As they were opened en masse at 9 a.m., a seemingly endless stream of comments scrolled onto screens for everyone to see, as students and supporters celebrated where they were watching from.

“Garrett John: UC Davis – Internal Med / Psychiatry.”… “Brian Jeff: Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Washington! GO HUSKIES!” followed by emoji of three dogs… “Angie Marrufo: UC Davis Surgery.”… “Replying to Tynisha: Angie Marrufo YES YES YES YES!!!!!”

Students also received congratulatory messages from Brashear, Vice Dean for Medical Education Mark Servis and faculty.

As usual, a large number — 77% — will stay in California for residency. A total of 19% will be with UC Davis Health. And 59% of all residents matched into primary care fields. The top six specialties included, family medicine; internal medicine; emergency medicine; pediatrics; obstetrics/gynecology; and psychiatry.

Archived videos are available on our Facebook channels.