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Larner Graduates, Faculty Honored at UVM Commencement Weekend Ceremonies

May 22, 2023 by Jennifer Nachbur

Students, family, friends, faculty, and staff gathered May 20 and 21 to celebrate both the next generation of biomedical scientists and health professionals, as well as the exceptional academic achievements of several Larner College of Medicine faculty, during the University of Vermont’s Commencement Weekend.

Larner medical graduates celebrated in the Ira Allen Chapel. (Photo: Andy Duback)

Students, family, friends, faculty, and staff gathered May 20 and 21 to celebrate both the next generation of biomedical scientists and health professionals, as well as the exceptional academic achievements of several Larner College of Medicine faculty, during the University of Vermont’s Commencement Weekend. (Find a link to each of the ceremony videos here.)

Larner community members figured prominently in three separate ceremonies during the weekend’s events. On Saturday, May 20, master’s degree and doctoral degree recipients were hooded at the Graduate College Ceremony in the Gutterson Fieldhouse. On Sunday, May 21, honorary degree and University Distinguished Professor recipients were recognized at the University Commencement Ceremony on the University Green, and UVM’s newest medical degree recipients were honored at the Larner College of Medicine Ceremony later that afternoon in Ira Allen Chapel.

Graduate College Ceremony recognizes master’s degree and doctoral degree recipients
Former UVM vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and 1987 undergraduate and 2003 graduate alum Wanda Heading-Grant, Ph.D., vice provost for DEI and chief diversity officer at Carnegie Mellon University, delivered the address at the Graduate College Ceremony. Larner-affiliated students receiving graduate degrees at the 2023 ceremony included:

  • Biomedical Engineering M.S. recipients: Dakota Allen; Brooke Bednarke; Anna Brown; Nicole Donahue; Zachary Munson; Steven O’Driscoll; and Dustin Pereslete.
  • Cellular, Molecular, and Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. recipients: Alqassem Abuarqoub; Alisa Cario; Evan Hofman; Inessa Manuelyan; Somen Mistri; Theresa Montgomery; Emory Pacht; Bristy Sabikunnahar; Rachel Stadler; Kathryn Victoria Svec; and Alex Thompson. M.S. recipient: Emily Whitcomb.
  • Clinical and Translational Science Ph.D. recipient: Levi Bonnell.
  • Master of Medical Science M.M.S. recipients: Sadick Amir; Clara Berard; Michaela Charette; Aaron Dees; Elnur Delahmetovic; Edgard Etoundi Ngono; Joseph Gallo; Conor Higgins; Adam Kingsley; Ashley Lyon; Jaynil Patel; Matthew Pawlowski; Kevin Pham; Jaclyn Sharpe; Mallory Staskus; and Natalie Tikhomirova.
  • Master of Public Health M.P.H. recipients: Cheyenne Braganza; Jaime Cotton; Johanne Diambou; Sinead Donnelly; Mark Gauthier; Heidi Kalb; Anna Kim; Mia Klonsky; Steven Leonard; Nisagini Logendran; Vanessa Marascio; Sophia McLaughlin; Melanie Meyer; Katrina Moreau; Patrick Payne; Anel Peco; Angela Pellegrino-Wood; Katherine Rampone; Sasha Rosen; Haylay Ross; Maris Sagamang; Elizabeth Sparks; Joseph Stacy; Katia Vieira de Moraes LaCasse; Nicodia Williams; and Francene Zavala.
  • Microbiology and Molecular Genetics M.S. recipient: Erica Lamkin.
  • Neuroscience Graduate Program Ph.D. recipients: Jefrey Brabec; Erin Cullen; Harrison Hsiang; Montana Lara; Theresa Legan; Megan Perkins; and Callum Piper Thomas.
  • Pathology M.S. degree recipients: Amelia Lamberty Peterson; and Joseph Teague.

Larner faculty honored at University Commencement Ceremony
Among the faculty members receiving top honors at the May 21 University Commencement Ceremony was Mark Levine, M.D., professor of medicine and commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, who was recognized for his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic with an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Levine completed his internal residency at UVM, then did fellowship training and held faculty positions in North Carolina and Pennsylvania before returning to join the UVM faculty in 1992. He became Vermont’s health commissioner in 2017.

The university’s main Commencement Ceremony also featured the appointments of Larner College of Medicine faculty members Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc., Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., and Gary Stein, Ph.D., with the University Distinguished Professor Award – the highest academic honor that UVM bestows upon a faculty member. Holders of this title are recognized for having achieved international eminence within their respective fields of study and for the truly transformative nature of their contributions to advancing knowledge. Currently 9 of the 15 University Distinguished Professors are Larner College of Medicine faculty members. In addition to Cushman, Higgins, and Stein, Ralph Budd, Ph.D., Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D., Brooke Mossman, Ph.D., Mark Nelson, Ph.D., Russell Tracy, Ph.D., and David Warshaw, Ph.D., hold the title. (Read more about Larner’s 2023 UVM Faculty Award recipients.)

More than 100 students receive Doctor of Medicine degrees at Larner ceremony
The sun shone brightly at the start of the medical Class of 2023 ceremony on May 20, and family members and loved ones of the more than 100 medical graduates filled the pews in UVM’s Ira Allen Chapel to celebrate the brand-new doctors. The event marked the completion of their medical school training at the Larner College of Medicine and transition to residencies across the country in a wide range of medical specialties, including internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, and more.

Leading the faculty into the chapel was newly-inducted University Distinguished Professor of Medicine Mary Cushman, M.D., M.Sc. Class of 2023 graduate Cyrus Thomas-Walker, M.D., served as Student Marshal, and led his classmates into the ceremony, where Larner Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., delivered the first remarks. Praising the new physicians on the grace and professionalism with which they adapted to new learning modalities and upheaval during the pandemic, he said, “Class of 2023, you are the clearest indicators of better times ahead – you are the best promise for our future.” In closing, Page encouraged the graduates to, “let integrity, compassion and social responsibility serve as your ‘True North.’ Let cultural humility, kindness, and respect guide your daily interactions. With these core values, and the education you have received, you are ready to greet the patients who await you.”

The ceremony also featured a moving vocal performance of Vermont’ state song, “These Green Mountains,” by Class of 2023 graduates Michael Koliba Lawler, M.D., and Naomi Koliba Lawler, M.D., remarks from Stephen Leffler, M.D., Class of 1990 alum and chief medical officer, president and chief operating officer of the University of Vermont Medical Center, and a keynote address by Gaurab Basu, M.D., M.P.H., 2010 Larner medical alum and founding co-director of the Cambridge Health Alliance Center for Health Equity Education and Advocacy.

“Medicine at its best is about seeing someone’s humanity,” said Basu, who is a Harvard Medical School instructor, a faculty affiliate in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine and a Health Equity Fellow at the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard University, and a faculty affiliate at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Basu told graduates, “you are also now ambassadors of health. We will need you to speak up and advocate for health in all of our systems – at the clinical level, at the societal level and the planetary level.”

Immediately prior to the awarding of degrees, Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education Christa Zehle, M.D., delivered remarks and introduced Class of 2023 student speaker, Daniel Castro, M.D., who read his poem, “The People You Are, The Patients You’ll See.”

Class of 2023 graduates who received their medical degrees at the Larner College of Medicine’s ceremony include:

  • Lud Eyasu, M.D., who, as a child in Ethiopia, admired how her father, a physician, and mother, a nurse, took care of people in the community. When she was seven, her family moved to Atlanta, Georgia. She stayed there for college at Emory University, after which she attended one year of medical school in Ethiopia, but due to political unrest there, she returned to the U.S., even more determined to become a doctor, and chose UVM's Larner College of Medicine. At UVM, Eyasu has served on the Medical Student Council and as president of the Gold Humanism Honor Society. In her honor, her classmates named the Lud Eyasu Community Service Award, which supports future medical students seeking to address local, unmet needs. Eyasu will be begin a general surgery residency at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, in June. (Read more about Eyasu.)
  • Victor Abraham, M.D., who was drawn to the field of psychiatry after losing a friend to suicide during high school and witnessing many friends’ mental health struggles. The son of a Dominican mother and Cuban father, he said he and his siblings were encouraged to “fully explore our dreams.” As an internal medicine physician his mother served as his role model. “She took me on my first medical missions trip when I was 12 … to Argentina. Abraham will be doing his psychiatry residency at Columbia University – the medical center where he was born. “I’ve becoming very dedicated to making a change in the world so that less people have to suffer with mental illness,” he said. Abraham will be begin his residency in June.
  • Kisha Kalra, M.D., a native of Natick, Mass., who will be specializing in ophthalmology and doing her residency at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami. Kalra says one of her greatest moments during medical school was assisting in a cataract surgery where the patient later cried tears of joy because he was so happy he could see again. As an official physician, she said she hopes “to be a doctor who sees the person before the disease … to be the kind of doctor that leads with humility, curiosity and passion.” Kalra will begin her residency in June.

At the close of the Larner College of Medicine ceremony, Dean Page administered “The Oath,” leading the Class of 2023 medical graduates in a reading of the College’s adapted version of the Oath of Lasagna of 1964 (see the full text of The Oath in the program via the link, below).

Link to the UVM Larner College of Medicine ceremony program.

View photos from the 2023 Larner College of Medicine M.D. Ceremony.

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