Transformed: Class of 2019 Earns Medical Degrees at Commencement

May 19, 2019 by Jennifer Nachbur

(MAY 19, 2019) For the past nearly four years, members of the Class of 2019 absorbed vast amounts of information, honed and demonstrated skills and comprehension, and experienced the dynamics of patient interactions and interprofessional health care teams. On Sunday, May 19, these newest graduates of the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine were able to take on the official title of “Doctor.”

(MAY 19, 2019) Sun, rain and a couple pairs of crutches were unable to dampen the spirits of the Larner College of Medicine's Class of 2019 Commencement participants on Sunday, May 19 at the University of Vermont's Ira Allen Chapel. After years of absorbing vast amounts of information, honing and demonstrating clinical skills and comprehension, and experiencing the dynamics of patient interactions and interprofessional health care teams, these medical graduates officially earned the title of “Doctor.” (View photos from Commencement and watch the full Commencement ceremony video.)

Keynote speaker Rebecca Wilcox, M.D., UVM associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and director of the College of Medicine’s Nutrition, Metabolism and Gastrointestinal System course, reminded the Class of 2019 of the special gift they will each bring to the next phase of their career. Citing the First Law of Thermodynamics in her address, she said "I know you remember that one - 'energy can neither be created nor destroyed.' However, it certainly can be transformed . . . That is the gift you have brought us today - Class of 2019 - transformed energy . . . You transformed all that energy into drive - propelling your education forward . . . you’ve been patient advocates . . . transferring that energy into kindness, connection and compassionate patient care." In closing, she advised the new physicians to "Recognize the ability to transform energy - store it for times of need - and be grateful for it."

Student speaker Katherine Conn Warther, M.D.'19 echoed Wilcox's theme of transformation in her remarks, saying "The beautiful thing about a career in medicine is that this transformation will continue to happen in every one of us throughout our professional lives." "We will pioneer new and improved ways of accomplishing routine tasks . . . we will help each other provide better care for our patients."

This milestone event was the first for Larner College of Medicine Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., who joined UVM in October 2018. Officials at the ceremony also included Faculty Marshal Bruce Leavitt, M.D., professor of surgery; Class Marshal Hyunsoo No, M.D.’19; UVM President Tom Sullivan, who received a standing ovation as thanks for his years of service to UVM and conferred medical degrees; UVM Medical Center Interim President Stephen Leffler, M.D.’90; Christa Zehle, M.D.’99, interim senior associate dean for medical education; Tania Bertsch, M.D., associate dean for clinical education; and Kathryn Huggett, Ph.D., assistant dean for medical education and director of the Teaching Academy. 

Among the Class of 2019 graduates are:

  • Michael Marallo, M.D.'19. who joined the Marine Corps after he graduated from Rutland High School in 2005 and was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Most of his service involved training or deployment in the Middle East. While he says he always wanted to pursue a career in medicine, his perspective changed after he was injured by a roadside bomb while serving and ended up undergoing numerous surgeries. Now, he’s going to become a plastic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Watch a Local22 news story clip featuring Marallo.
  • Desiree DiBella, M.D.'19, who moved to Tennessee from San Diego, Calif. at age four. With two parents in the Navy, she was exposed to both medicine – through her father’s work as a corps man and naval hospital radiology technician – as well as many people from a wide range of backgrounds. The leader of a College event aligned with the #WhiteCoatsforBlackLives movement, she sees a need to focus on the health disparities people of color experience and aims to work with patients of color and kids with chronic illness. In June, she’ll begin a prestigious combined residency program in pediatrics, child psychiatry, and adult psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
  • Former Princeton University basketball player and New Hampshire native Patrick Saunders, M.D.'19, who is going into one of the seven most competitive residencies, according to the American Medical Association – orthopedic surgery. He got a glimpse of what care at his residency location at the University of Arizona Phoenix is like when he tore his Achilles playing basketball there a few weeks ago. Among the highlights of his past four years are getting married and working on his required Scholarly Project with his mentor, Assistant Professor of Radiology Matthew Geeslin, M.D., and his medical school classmate Al Marchese, M.D.’19.

Among the most popular residency matches in the Class of 2019 were internal medicine, family medicine, emergency medicine and pediatrics. Most of the Larner College of Medicine’s new graduates will begin residency orientation in mid- to late June, 11 of them here at UVM Medical Center. Link to the Class of 2019 Match List.


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