The graduates of the Columbia Postbac Premed Program celebrated Class Day on May 11, 2018 in Low Memorial Library. Faculty, administrators, fellow students, friends, and family honored the 117 graduates for completing this important step on their journey to medical school and beyond.
Lisa Rosen-Metsch, Dean of the School of General Studies, welcomed the graduates and introduced the Class Day keynote speaker, Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, MD, MPH, MPA. El-Sadr is the founder and director of ICAP at Columbia University, University Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine and Mathilde Krim-amfAR Professor of Global Health at Columbia University. Through ICAP at Columbia University, she was instrumental in establishing large-scale programs in sub Saharan Africa and Asia that integrate research, education, training and practice. She is also a proliﬁc researcher with close to 400 publications on a diverse range of topics, a MacArthur “genius” fellow, and a member of the National Academy of Medicine.
El-Sadr spoke about her path to medical school in Egypt and the perceptions of what being a physician meant, which greatly differed from that of reality. She implored graduates to become advocates for their patients and be willing to listen to them. Her biggest piece of advice: never take “no” for an answer. “You are the people that are needed in these professions, you are needed to bring diverse experiences to the field,” said El-Sadr. “Stand strong. We trust in you to lead the way…you are capable of making medicine what it needs to be and are poised to do it.”
El-Sadr joined Columbia faculty 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 Chioma Anne Nonyelum Iwelumo. In her speech to fellow graduates, she reflected on how she got comfortable with being wrong and thinking in different ways in order to understand information. She encouraged them to practice empathy, mindfulness, and inclusivity; to “challenge our assumptions and our beliefs” to try be advocates for patients; and to “redefine what it means to make America great.”
Iwelumo entered the Columbia Postbac Premed Program in fall 2016, working as a medical assistant at Lakeview Medical Center and research associate at New York Presbyterian Hospital during her time at Columbia. Following completion of the program, she will be attending Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in fall 2018 as a Primary Care Scholar.
Graduates will take several different paths to realizing their futures in medicine. Some will complete their glide year before entering medical school, while others will begin medical school in the fall at one of the 15 medical schools with which Columbia maintains a linkage agreement.
In closing, Dean Rosen-Metsch thanked the graduates for their extraordinary humanity and encouraged them to remain engaged with each other as alumni and contemporary professionals.