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This year’s incoming class of 132 students was inducted into the UC Davis School of Medicine over the weekend in a pandemic-era ceremony that lacked an in-person audience but nonetheless celebrated the familial heritage of the future doctors.

The event took place Saturday morning in a large tent where students donned short white coats and blue cloth face masks. They sat in the rows where family and friends would normally sit, spaced between two empty chairs from their nearest classmate.

After students walked onto the stage one by one to receive their prized stethoscope from a faculty member, they turned to the microphone and – often in languages other than English – saluted family watching the program via Facebook Live.


Shania Westmoreland receives her stethoscope from Associate Dean for Students Sharad Jain at induction

The Class of 2025 is among the most diverse ever, with roughly 77% of students identifying themselves as a race other than white. Slightly more than two-thirds of the class is female.

Earlier this year,  U.S. News & World Report ranked the School of Medicine No. 4 for diversity among its student body.

“Starting medical school during the pandemic is not for the faint of heart,” said School of Medicine Dean Allison Brashear. “I believe this is one of the more exciting times to be in medicine,” she added, “to serve our diverse communities in their greatest time of need.”

Senior student speaker Harjot Virk, in his fourth year studying medicine, offered his perspective on resiliency.

The keynote speaker was Luis Godoy, an assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery. In his younger years, Godoy had joined a gang and dropped out of school before turning his life around and eventually graduating from UC Davis School of Medicine. He encouraged students to remember why they want to be physicians.

“You want to go into medicine to help people,” he said. “You want to help improve their quality of life.”

He urged them to remember induction day proudly. “Because when I reflect on my past, this is one of those days that means so much to me, to this day, that it keeps me going and moving forward.”

He reminded students to remember family and friends “because they will be a strong support structure along your journey.”

And that’s exactly what they did after Associate Dean for Curriculum and Medical Education Kristin Olson, and Associate Dean for Students Sharad Jain, placed a stethoscope around each student’s neck.

One by one, the students delivered personalized messages to their friends, partners, siblings, parents and grandparents, some of whom were using Facebook for the first time to watch the ceremony across California and around the world.

“I just want to say thank you to my family, my partner, my community, everyone who has helped me along the way,” said Alexandra Inslee. “This accomplishment is yours to share.”

Jasivet Chavez chose Spanish for her comments: “Gracias a todos mis mentores, amigos, y familia.”

Brian Sharon drew laughs when he quipped, “Thanks to the admissions committee.” Then in a more serious tone, he added, “and a special thanks to my husband for letting me turn our lives upside down and chase this dream – you’re my biggest cheerleader.”

Miriam Sarkisian focused on what it took to get to where she is. “I want to thank my beautiful family who relocated their whole lives twice to different countries to bring me here today, to bring me better opportunities,” she said.

Rebeka Dejenie delivered a special shout-out to her mother, a political refugee from Ethiopia. “I just want to say thank you to my mom, my single immigrant mother who sent both of her daughters to medical school and my late father, who I know would have been here today,” she said before concluding her remarks in Amharic.

Afterward, the class recited the medical student pledge of ethics in English. In addition, 16 students each stated the pledge in their ancestral language, including Assyrian, Bulgarian, Khmer, Russian, Spanish and Zapotec.

When the ceremony ended, students hopped in their cars to meet up with family and friends who had just watched induction online.