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Keck School graduates take a walk

Unknownby Josh Grossberg
The Keck School of Medicine class of 2013 (USC Photo/Steve Cohn)
Photo: The Keck School of Medicine class of 2013 (USC Photo/Steve Cohn)

It somehow all flew by in an instant. But there she was, after four years of medical school, receiving her diploma and officially becoming a doctor.

And as if it didn’t go by fast enough, Kaitlin Carroll was the first person called on stage to receive her diploma at the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s commencement ceremony on May 18 at the Shrine Auditorium.

“It’s been eight years since high school,” said Carroll, who also served as co-president of the student body. “It’s blown by.”

With more than 2,000 family members cheering and waving, the Keck School class — including 154 MD graduates, with three of them also receiving a PhD, one an MBA and one an MPH — entered the hall at the start of the ceremony.

The newly minted doctors received a wide range of send-offs that were in turn solemn, poignant and funny.

Commencement speaker and recipient of the Dean’s Humanitarian Award Robert Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment, told a story about a 2-year-old boy who was rushed to the hospital after being found on the bottom of a swimming pool. Ross was a resident at the time and got to know the family over the course of the boy’s treatment. The initial news was not good, and the family was offered the chance to remove the boy from his respirator. But the family refused, deciding instead to hope for the best.

Ross lost touch with the family, but seven years later he received a call. On the other end of the phone was the young boy, who was 9 at the time.

“I was talking to a miracle,” Ross told the audience.

And then Ross held up a photo. It was the boy at his high school graduation. Ross, who said the boy later went on to graduate from college, used the story to ask the graduates to imagine things beyond science.

“This craft that you’ve chosen, never forget that it’s about healing and there is an element of that craft of healing that has to do with faith — faith in the power of unseen evidence,” he said. “It’s a reminder about those things that you just can’t measure. You can’t measure faith, attitude and courage.”

In his address, Keck School Dean Carmen A. Puliafito recalled how the Boston Marathon bombing occurred just weeks after faculty, staff and students from the Keck School and Keck Medical Center of USC volunteered at the Los Angeles Marathon. And while the event was a national tragedy, it was a time when physicians could feel proud for rushing to the scene and putting themselves in jeopardy to help the injured.

“Just a few seconds after the blast, we saw true heroism everywhere,” Puliafito said. “And physicians led the way. It was a great moment in the history of American medicine and something every one of us in the medical profession can be proud of.”

He urged the class to take on the mantle of leadership in their own careers.

“In moments of crises large and small, both communities and individuals look to physicians to lead the way toward healing,” he said. “It may be on the battlefield. It may be on the sidewalk. I know you’ll be ready for the difficult times ahead with both courage and compassion.”

Elizabeth Garrett, USC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, told the graduates that they possess knowledge that took previous doctors an entire career to master. And she urged them to put their expertise to good use.

“Your passion to help and comfort others is not just a passion anymore — it is also your responsibility,” she said.

And then it was time for some fun. Student speaker Nima Taheri seamlessly mixed pop-culture references with experiences from school for a comedic turn that had the audience laughing.

“I’d like to take this time to welcome our friends, our family and our loan officers for coming out to support us at this very special time,” he said. “This is to you, Wells Fargo.”

Taheri, who transferred to the Keck School from the University of California, Los Angeles, had some advice for his colleagues.

“Don’t be shy to tell everyone you went to USC,” he said. “But if you get caught not washing your hands and spreading drug-resistant bacteria to unsuspecting patients, that’s a good time to tell everyone you went to UCLA.”

Other ceremonies were also held throughout the week.

The Keck School’s Master of Science, Master of Public Health and PhD students walked on May 15 in the Harry & Celesta Pappas Quad.

On May 17, the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC awarded 173 DDS degrees, 32 bachelor’s degrees in dental hygiene, 46 advanced specialty certificates and one master’s degree in craniofacial biology.

The USC School of Pharmacy awarded 181 PharmD degrees, 20 PhD degrees and one Doctor of Regulatory Science degree. In addition, 31 graduates were awarded master’s degrees and 38 pharmacists completed their residency training.

On May 17, the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy awarded 91 DPT degrees, one master’s in biokinesiology and five PhD degrees in biokinesiology, while the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy handed out four PhD degrees in occupational science, 51 Doctor of Occupational Therapy degrees, 131 master’s degrees and 21 bachelor’s degrees.

During that ceremony, Pamela Corley of the Norris Medical Library received the Divisional Tribute award honoring more than 30 years of service at USC. Her retirement came on the same day as the ceremony.

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