2019 Graduates Celebrated at Postbac Premed Program Class Day

The graduates of the Columbia University Postbac Premed Program celebrated Class Day on May 17 in Low Memorial Library. Faculty, administrators, fellow students, friends, and family honored the nearly 130 graduates for completing this important step on their journey to medical school and beyond.

May 20, 2019

Lisa Rosen-Metsch, Dean of the School of General Studies, welcomed the graduates and introduced the Class Day keynote speaker, Dr. Olajide Williams. Williams is the Chief of Staff of the Department of Neurology and an Associate Professor at Columbia University. He is also the founder of Hip Hop Public Health, Co-Director of Columbia University's Wellness Center, and Medical Director of New York Presbyterian's Comprehensive Stroke Center, Columbia University campus.

"Never relinquish your dreams—no matter how hard this is. Never surrender to fear—no matter how frightening this may seem," he said. 

Williams, who was named one of Fast Company Magazine's 100 Most Creative People, The Root's 100 Most Influential African Americans, and New York Magazine's Best Doctors, encouraged graduates to continue pursuing their aspirations.

"Many of you have already had great careers outside of medicine—in the arts, sciences, sports, and as entrepreneurs. You are here not out of pressure from a parent or a community or the lure of a financially secure occupation. You are here for the most noble of human reasons. To apply for the benefit of the sick all measures that apply. To remember that there is also an art to medicine, and that warmth, empathy, and understanding outweigh the surgeon's knife and the chemist's drug," Williams said.

Williams then joined Columbia faculty and administrators in congratulating the graduates as each was presented by Andrew Sunshine, Director of the Postbac Premed Program.

Following the presentation of graduates, the student address was delivered by Catherine Jennings, who served as Vice President of the Columbia University Premedical Association (PMA). In her speech to fellow graduates, she reflected upon her journey to the Program, as well as her time during the Program. She also acknowledged the diverse paths that led her graduating class to where they are today.

"Before coming to this program, you had earned degrees from all over the world. You'd worked as journalists and business executives. You'd flown planes, served in the military, performed as professional musicians and opera singers. You'd had so many unique experiences, like Ivan, whose work as a rock musician led him to filming NYU's first face transplant. Or Riva, who in my own personal nightmare, stepped on tick bombs in the Panamanian jungle, all in the name of scientific research. We entered this program with already impressive academic and life and work experiences. How hard could a little physics possibly be?"

Before joining the Postbac Premed Program, Jennings taught middle school science in both public and private school settings. She also danced with a modern dance collective in Tennessee and worked in therapeutic horseback riding, teaching riding lessons for children and adults with mental, physical, and neurological disabilities.

At Columbia, Jennings worked as a research associate in the Metropolitan Hospital Emergency Medicine department and published her first clinical research in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Getaw Worku Hassen. She also serves as a patient educator in Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Department of Bariatric and Minimally Invasive Surgery, where she led patient support groups and education sessions to help patients prepare for bariatric procedures. Next fall, she will attend the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons as a member of the Class of 2023.