Larner Graduates Shine at 2024 UVM Commencement Ceremonies

May 21, 2024, by Angela Ferrante

group of happy graduates in regalia
Photo: Andy Duback

Students, family, friends, faculty, and staff gathered on May 18 and 19 to celebrate the next generation of biomedical scientists, health professionals, and doctors during the University of Vermont’s Commencement Weekend. (Links to each ceremony video here.)

Throughout the weekend’s events, members of the Larner community played significant roles in the end-of-year ceremonies. On Saturday, May 18, master’s and doctoral degree recipients were hooded at the Graduate College Ceremony, held in the Gutterson Fieldhouse. The following day, Sunday, May 19, recipients of honorary degrees and University Distinguished Professor titles were acknowledged at the University Commencement Ceremony on the University Green. Later that afternoon, UVM’s newest medical degree recipients were celebrated at the Larner College of Medicine Ceremony in Ira Allen Chapel.

At Saturday’s Graduate College Ceremony, Otto Berkes G’89, UVM graduate, technology leader, entrepreneur, and member of the UVM Board of Trustees, delivered the address. Berkes is the author of Digitally Remastered: Building Software into Your Business DNA, a book covering the topic of digital transformation, and is also a co-author on 13 patents and a recipient of the Xbox Founder’s Award, an Emmy Award, and the Edward R. Murrow Award. In addition, Berkes is an advisor to Airtime and CoLabs and director at Acendre. Among the pool of graduates were students affiliated with the Larner College of Medicine receiving their advanced degrees:

  • Biochemistry M.S.: John M. Cullen
  • Cellular, Molecular, and Biomedical Sciences Ph.D.: Andrea Foote, Cong Gao, Mingu Kang, Sean Michael Lenahan, Katelyn A. Queen, Jennifer Y. Oshita, Lucy E. Pilcher, Camilla A. Strother, Trevor Hamilton Wolf
  • Clinical and Translational Science Ph.D.: Adam S. Sprouse Blum, Jennifer Y. Oshita
  • Clinical and Translational Science M.S.: Diego A. Adrianzen Herrera
  • Master of Medical Science M.M.S.: Sarah Abeling, Nupoor Adhikari, Faith Barbour, Jenna Borovinsky, Sam Charles, Maya Davis, Joselvin Santiny Galeas, Maria Camila Grau, Emily Michelle Walkowicz Hanney, Graham Murray Janson, Yejee Kim Isabel Kline, Miles Lamberson, Michael McLaughlin, Kaleigh Miller, Hannah Moynihan, Joseph Odundo Owuor, Patrick Parkinson, Olivia Salem, Shantel Tatum, Ashley Tubens, Amber Uptergrove, Joseph Young
  • Master of Public Health M.P.H.: Aine Alexander, Chike Asanya, Abby Berard, Michael Bernstein, Alexia Bove, Shawney Bushey, Heidi Considine, Kaileen Elyse Cruden, Roshni Davis, Maggie Priscilla Ducote, Nyra Nannette Giles, Brian Gomez, Katherine Ava Hansen, Natalie Hewitt, Isabella Anne Johnson, Hima Bindu Kanuparthi, Sara Kelsey Leonard, Maya Rose Lipstein, Robyn Lynne Maher, Caitlin McCluskey, Brittany McMakin, Fatisha Moteso, Jenna Dalla Mura, Alyssa Jazmine Oviedo, Joseph Odundo Owuor, Emma Parks, Julia Pencek, Arian Pilja, Haley Ruth Raftery, Zyakkiriah Tianna Rhoden, Elizabeth Rowell, Julia Sarrasin, Abigale Savoie, Helen Schafer, Lauren Shilo, Grace Simmons, Elizabeth Anne Sparks, Angela Spetts, James Sullivan, Madeline Taubkin, Yeshey Tshogyal, Han Naung Tun, Libby Tuttle, Laura Whitley, Martin Rodriguez Wong, Grace Yu, Maryam Zenali, Pallas Ziporyn
  • Microbiology and Molecular Genetics M.S.: Emilia Sofia Norberg, Meghan Jameson Owens
  • Neuroscience Graduate Program Ph.D.: Amanda B. Sidwell
  • Pathology M.S.: Margaret King, Kyra Lee, Sherry Xu
  • Pharmacology M.S.: Priyanka Chavarkar, Liam Clancy, David Hadden, Kathryn Anne Laprade, Jenna McDonald, Terdha Narla, Skylar Oliver, Mehak Raina, Emma Schoeling, Nathan Stine

More than 100 students receive Doctor of Medicine degrees at Larner ceremony

Guests viewing artwork hanging on walls in Larner

Snapshots from the Ceremony for the Class of 2024. (Photos: Andy Duback)

On May 19, the sun shone brightly as the medical Class of 2024 ceremony began. Loved ones of more than 100 medical graduates filled the pews in UVM’s Ira Allen Chapel to celebrate the newly minted doctors. This event marked the end of their medical school journey at the Larner College of Medicine and their transition to residencies across the country in various specialties, including internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, and more.

Leading the faculty into the chapel was faculty marshal Jillian Sullivan, M.D.’04. Class of 2024 graduate Elise A. Prehoda, M.D., served as student marshal and led her classmates into the ceremony, where Richard L. Page, M.D., dean of the Larner College of Medicine, 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, “The Class of 2024 is special. They applied to medical school before anyone had heard of COVID, but they started their medical education in the thick of a pandemic. Instead of our usual greeting of the entire class in one large classroom, Dean Zehle and I greeted the Class of 2024 wearing masks, visiting them in the individual pods of a dozen or so students that defined their first preclinical year. The first months of medical school are always hard, but nobody would wish upon them the added challenges they endured.” Page applauded them on their resilience, stating, “I have never been so optimistic about the future of a graduating class or our College. These new doctors are going into the world for training, at outstanding residency programs, prepared to take on whatever life brings them … I can’t wait to see what they will accomplish.”

The ceremony also featured remarks from President and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Vermont Health Network Sunil Eappen, M.D., M.B.A., and a keynote address by James J. O’Connell, M.D., president of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“Welcome, Class of 2024, to our amazing profession. I wish you exciting lives, full of balance, promise, failure—yes, failure; without which we cannot grow—compassion, fun, and love,” said O’Connell. “Cherish your family and friends. Embrace uncertainty, cherish failures, and always remain open to the serendipity that sprinkles each of our lives with grace. You have so much to give … especially to those who are vulnerable, excluded, lonely, and shunned by our society. Now, more than ever, the world desperately needs you.”

Prior to the awarding of degrees, Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education Christa Zehle, M.D.’99, delivered remarks and introduced Class of 2024 student speaker Tyler Landman, M.D. Landman recounted his medical school journey, noting that above and beyond the typical hurdles of medical school, the Class of 2024 stands out as the first Larner cohort to confront the unprecedented trials posed by the COVID-19 pandemic as medical students.

collage of three students in regalia at Larner graduation ceremony

From Left-Right: Alayna Westcom, Mialovena Exume, Elise Prehoda, all Class of 2024. (Photos: Andy Duback)

Class of 2024 graduates who received their medical degrees at the Larner College of Medicine’s ceremony include:

  • Elise Prehoda, Class of 2024 student president and class marshal, who grew up on a small farm in rural Vermont. Prehoda always felt a strong drive to help others, but it wasn’t until she began working in the Emergency Department at UVMMC that her love of medicine blossomed fully. “While I previously saw physicians as prescribers; those who offer a diagnosis, medication, and little more, my time working in the ED taught me that the profession is more than what meets the eye … I witnessed physicians care and mourn so deeply with family experiencing loss, I witnessed countless acts of kindness, generosity, and compassion.” Prehoda, inspired by the experience, will serve as a resident at the Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Program (HAEMR) at Mass General/Brigham Young Hospital.
  • Mialovena Exume, a first-generation college graduate dedicated to helping underserved communities. Hailing from Haiti, Exume and her mother emigrated to the United States when she was a young child, joining family members living stateside. She recalls the impact that the Seventh Avenue Family Health Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, had on her as a pediatric patient: “My desire to bridge the gap in health care, especially for pediatric patients who are disadvantaged, developed at this clinic,” Exume said. Her time as a middle school educator in the Teach for America program in Atlanta, Georgia—teaching Spanish language and culture to students at various levels—cemented her goal of becoming a doctor as she witnessed the impact that lack of health care could have on young lives. She will be further pursuing her goal of compassionate and patient-centered care as she begins her pediatrics residency at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., this summer.
  • Alayna Westcom, a Bakersfield, Vermont, native and Miss Vermont 2015. Westcom was always intrigued by medicine. As a young girl, her interest in the medical field took an interesting turn—she grew up watching shows like CSI and realized that the field of forensic pathology would allow her to combine her two interests into a rewarding career. Westcom’s path to medical school took her to UVM, where she completed a post-baccalaureate degree in medical laboratory science before enrolling in Larner as a medical student. Westcom, whose birthday falls on the same day as this year’s ceremony, will continue her career journey as a pathology resident at the University of Vermont Medical Center. “Finishing medical school is probably one of the coolest ways to celebrate a birthday!” said Westcom.

At the close of the Larner College of Medicine ceremony, Dean Page administered “The Oath,” leading the Class of 2024 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 2024 Larner College of Medicine M.D. Ceremony.