ESPN Analyst Michael Kaplan, MD’87 Tells 2017 Grads to “Make Every Effort to Be Soulful”

May 22, 2017 by Jennifer Nachbur

The excitement was steadily building as members of the Larner College of Medicine’s Class of 2017 gathered in Cook Commons to don their caps and gowns and drape their hard-earned medical degree hoods over the crook of their right arms.

Larner College of Medicine Class of 2017 Commencement

The excitement was built steadily as members of the Larner College of Medicine’s Class of 2017 gathered in Cook Commons to don their caps and gowns and drape their hard-earned medical degree hoods over the crook of their right arms. They were ready to take the final step – receiving their M.D. – to being doctors. Commencement speaker and Class of 1987 alumnus Michael Kaplan, M.D., could relate. He’d been in their shoes 30 years prior, on a day not nearly as pleasant, but memorable nonetheless, regardless of the cold, hail and high winds. (Link to the Commencement ceremony video)

Despite dramatic changes in the practice of medicine since he became a doctor – particularly in regards to technology, finances, politics and structure – Kaplan reminded the graduates that “for all of that, much of what doctors do, have done, and will hopefully always do, remains much the same. We are assigned and assume responsibility for the welfare of our patients.”

Spirituality and religion figured prominently in Kaplan’s remarks. The ESPN chief medical correspondent and director of orthopedics at St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury, Conn., shared a Judaism reference to medicine as a “priestly vocation,” and an old proverb popular in surgery that “God heals the wounds and we doctors just change the bandages.” He drew comparisons between his role as a journalist and as a physician, and reminded students to “pay attention to the details and listen to the patient . . . and make every effort to be soulful.”

At the start of the ceremony, which took place in UVM's Ira Allen Chapel, Larner College of Medicine Dean Rick Morin, M.D., and Claude Deschamps, M.D., president of the UVM Medical Group, welcomed students, faculty and guests. UVM President Tom Sullivan and Associate Dean for Student Affairs Christa Zehle, M.D., provided remarks. After Kaplan’s speech, Class of 2017 medical student Dylan Devlin delivered the student address and Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education William Jeffries, Ph.D., announced the names of the 113 graduating medical students at the ceremony. 

Among the members of the Class of 2017 participating in the May 21 event were:

  • Erin Pichiotino, a Burlington, Vt., native and UVM undergrad alumna with a Master of Public Health degree from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. As a 2014-15 Albert Schweitzer Fellow, she developed a program in collaboration with Support and Services at Home and Cathedral Square to empower seniors to take control of their health and wellbeing. A Larner Student Award recipient and American Medical Student Association Health Equity Scholar, she will be completing a residency in orthopaedic surgery at University of South Carolina-Greenville.
  • Nicholas Bonenfant of Concord, N.H., whose work on creating several LGBT and transgender health-related medical education modules recently gained him a profile in NBC Out. Bonenfant, who will be doing a pediatrics residency at UVM Medical Center starting in June, hopes his current and future training modules will lead to improved physician-patient interactions and motivate and inspire others to fight for children who face unique and significant challenges related to their gender identity.
  • Melanie Ma and Alexandra Brown, who co-developed a curriculum to prepare medical students for dealing with a “code” – a patient going into pulmonary arrest – in the hospital, something that Ma experienced without preparation during her first clinical rotation in her Clerkship year of med school. To date, they have led simulated trainings for students in the Class of 2018 and 2019 in conjunction with the start of their clinical rotations.

Graduates of the Class of 2017 will begin residency orientation in mid- to late June. Among the most popular specialty matches were primary care - a total of 37 students - and surgery, with 22 students matching to surgical specialties. Link to the Class of 2017 Match List.

Link to the Larner College of Medicine Class of 2017 Commencement photo gallery.