Graduation 2023 is in the books! Congratulations to the graduates and award winners. Thank you, Brett, for pulling it all together, and to our class speakers, Bill Fowler (PGY1), Jeremy Tchack (PGY2), and Danish Zaidi (PGY3) for the heartfelt (and hysterical) speeches.
Here are my remarks from the program, followed by the list of awardees at the end.
Enjoy your Sunday, everyone. Get ready to welcome our new interns, one week from today.
Graduation Speech 2023
Friends, families, faculty, staff, residents, Chief Residents, and graduates: welcome to graduation 2023!
Let’s start by thanking the people who made today possible.
To our hospital, clinic, school, faculty, and department leaders: thank you for giving us the resources, support, and encouragement we needed to succeed. Thank you for promoting clinical excellence, teaching, and scholarship. And thank you for fostering a workplace that values safety, respect, diversity, and inclusion.
To our APDs (Cindy McNamara, Shaili Gupta, Ben Rodwin, Paul Bernstein, Matt Grant, Isabel Bazan, and Mahalia Desruisseaux): thank you for guiding our residents through the trials and travails of residency; for the contributions you make to ambulatory and inpatient education; for your leadership in assessments, evaluation, coaching, recruitment, and program improvement; for creating a safe, dynamic learning climate; for always thinking the best of our residents; and for being the wisest, most honest, and most supportive partners a program director could have.
To our staff: thank you for the work we don’t see. Thank you for keeping our residents paid, nourished, and happy. And special thanks to our extraordinary Program Coordinator, Brett Marks, who simply gets it done, usually before I ask, and mostly before I even know something needs doing. A special thank you for creating today’s lovely celebration.
To our friends and family, here and on Zoom: thank you for sharing your daughters and sons; wives, husbands, and partners; and moms and dads with us. Thank you for supporting these incredible people through three challenging years.
To our residents: Thank you for working such long hours, for taking stellar care of your patients, for teaching your peers, for your service on committees, and for looking out for one another. You make us proud.
To our Chief Residents: Individually and collectively, you made this program thrive.
Sam Magier: with the guidance of your mentor, Dr. Merchant, you’ve taken the CRQS position to new heights with your M&Ms and safety interventions. Thank you for letting me to sneak into your “resident only” conferences occasionally so I could learn too, and thank you for making quality and safety a core component of resident education.
Lisa O’Donovan: thank you for being a stellar leader in the COE and for working with Dr. Brienza to make the VA-COE one of the jewels of our residency. You’ve already become a seasoned, creative, insightful primary care physician, administrator, role model, and teacher. Your resident assessments and coaching are without parallel.
Mike Fuery: Thank you for joining the illustrious line of NHPCC Chiefs. You are a quiet hero. Under Dr. Bernstein’s guidance, you’ve navigated crises, scheduled clinics, assigned subspecialty sessions, coordinated educational conferences, planned retreats, and increased our engagement with the community. Thank you for inspiring us to live up to our commitment to meeting the medical needs of our New Haven neighbors.
Raksha Madhavan, Christina Dimopoulos, Alex Heard, Sofia Cruz Solbes, and Ann Soliman: we could devote the entire ceremony to celebrating your accomplishments. You led us out of the pandemic; resurrected in-person teaching; created a new, morning skills conference; led simulations and procedure training; and coordinated interview dinners. You advocated for the residents at department meetings, created humane schedules, ensured our teams were staffed, and set a tone of respect, rigor, and joy. Thank you for the problem-solving and troubleshooting, honest counsel, collaboration, twice weekly meetings, and for your courage to speak up when it would have been easier to stay silent. Thank you for supporting your residents’ physical and mental wellbeing. Most of all, thank you for making yourself available to your residents (and to me) 24/7. You are the heart and soul of this program.
And finally, to our graduates. Where do we even begin?
You had no idea what you were getting into when you applied to residency in September 2019. You were the last class to interview in person, and, as many of you reminded me at Thursday’s ambulatory celebration, the last group to enjoy pre-interview dinners at Bar. You matched with us just a few days after we admitted our first COVID patients to Yale-New Haven Hospital.
You started residency during the pandemic’s darkest days. The hospital was overflowing, and the ICU was packed with desperately ill patients. Vaccines were months away, and it was impossible to ignore the fear of falling ill ourselves or bringing COVID home to our families. We did our best with the treatments we had, and, looking back, we should be proud of our accomplishments, achieving some of the highest survival rates in the country. No doubt we can attribute much of this success to the dedication, teamwork, and courage of our medical community, including the graduates sitting here today.
As interns you quickly acquired skills that usually take years to master. You learned to communicate clearly and compassionately in your daily phone calls to patients’ families. You learned the ethics of triage and end of life decision making. You learned to pay attention to detail as you kept track of blood gases, ventilator settings, and novel drug treatments. You learned how social determinants of health, particularly prejudice and poverty, endanger patients’ lives. You learned to adapt to new teaching methods as we moved conferences to Zoom. Most importantly, you learned to put patients first as you donned your protective gear, entered the room, and simply did your jobs.
You will be remembered forever as the class that did most of its training during COVID. You deserve to be proud, but let’s be honest: it was hard. We struggled with loneliness as social events were curtailed. We endured people who refused to wear masks, scoffed at vaccines, and doubted the very existence of the pandemic. At the same time, we faced conspiracy theories, gun violence, mistreatment of immigrants, the dismantling of reproductive rights, and attacks against the LGBTQ community. During your residency, healthcare worker burnout was finally acknowledged as a crisis.
They say crises create opportunities and suffice it to say your class responded to many opportunities. During your residency, we created the RBAM Distinction, expanded our advocacy curriculum, and increased residency diversity. Many of you contributed to research that advanced our understanding of COVID. We improved our partnership with the New Haven community, which helped us become better communicators, more effective clinicians, and more attuned to our patients’ needs. We learned how systemic racism was built into the practice of medicine, for example when we calculate GFRs, interpret PFTs, and perform pulse oximetry. We promoted resident engagement on the Executive Council and Program Evaluation Committee. We addressed workplace violence by creating new policies and pathways to promote justice, respect, and safety. And we dedicated ourselves to resident wellbeing by speaking openly about mental health, creating humane schedules, sponsoring social events, and, at long last, eliminating q4 28-hour call.
At the start of your medical careers, you learned a lesson that it took me decades to learn: You never know. You can chart long-term professional plans, and from reading your personal statements, I know many of you have done just that. But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that you can only plan so much.
My own career shows how unpredictable life can be. When I finished residency in 1991, I had no way to know that life-saving treatments for HIV were just a few years off. I lacked the imagination to predict electronic medical records, hand-held computers, digital radiography, UpToDate, MedTwitter, online libraries, POCUS, interventional pulmonology and gastroenterology, personalized cancer treatments, or mRNA-based vaccines. I knew I wanted to teach, but becoming a residency program director was the furthest thing from my mind. But 32 years later, here I am.
Graduates: Who knows what your future holds? For the researchers among you, do you really know what technologies you’ll be using 10 years from now, let alone what the questions will be? For the clinicians, can we possibly guess how we’ll incorporate individualized treatments into our practice or even define the diseases we’re treating? As teachers, can we even imagine how we’ll use emerging technologies like artificial intelligence? The opportunities will be as abundant as they are currently mysterious.
But no matter what the future brings, the core principles of medicine will stay the same. Patients will count on you to treat them with skill, commitment, and compassion. The public will count on you to develop and share medical knowledge, protect vulnerable patients, and advocate for universal, affordable healthcare. Your students will count on you to guide their entry into this humane, learned profession. And your colleagues will count on you to be partners, collaborators, and teammates on our shared mission “to cure sometimes, to relieve often, and to comfort always.”
Yale Traditional Internal Medicine Graduates of 2023: We are immensely proud of all that you’ve accomplished. Thank you for the lasting contributions you’ve made to our program, our patients, and our community. On the behalf of the department, hospitals, clinics, school, and residency, we wish you good health, happiness, and long, productive, meaningful careers.
Junior Resident Awards:
Samuel D. Kushlan (PGY1): Paul Tran
Samuel D. Kushlan (PGY2): Mary White
Special Recognition: Kate Feder
Fred S. Kantor Teacher of the Year at YNHH: Lloyd Friedman
Asghar Rastegar Teacher of the Year at the WHVA: Shaili Gupta
NHPCC Teacher of the Year: Benjamin Gallagher
NHPCC Humanism: Shawn Ong
Fellow of the Year: Max Eder
Staff Award: James Loma
Partners in Care Award: Max Koenig
Yogesh Khanal Global Health Leadership Award: Koeun Choi and Timothy DeVita
Marcella Nunez Smith Award for Achievements in Antiracism in Medicine: George Agyapong
The Vasquez Award for Humanism: Anna Zimmerman
The Hughes Award for Ambulatory Teaching: Susan Kashaf
Innovations in Ambulatory Education: Rebecca Brienza
Stephen R. Shell Memorial Housestaff Award: Ysabel Ilagan-Ying
Frederick L. Sachs Award: Ysabel Ilagan-Ying
VA Clinic Award (Firm A): Christopher Gromisch
VA Clinic Award (Firm B): Ysabel Ilagan-Ying
VA COE Award: Keval Desai
New Haven Primary Care Consortium Award: Jessica Petrov
Fair Haven Community Health Center Award: Natalia Tijaro Ovalle
Research Awards: Nazli Dizman and Tayyab Shah