Graduate total shatters previous mark
By Ruth Cummins
It was one more day for the record books at UMMC.
A total 846 physicians, dentists, nurses, allied health professionals and graduate students in the health sciences received degrees during annual commencement ceremony May 23 at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. That tops 2013’s 677, which bested the 2011 record total of 638.
University of Mississippi Chancellor Dr. Dan Jones and Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, addressed the graduates, who were cheered on by more than 3,000 family and friends.
Monica Nichols White of Ridgeland hadn’t planned to walk across the stage to accept her diploma. She’s been there, done that, with three degrees earned over the past decade.
“But, my son told me he was so excited to see mommy graduate, so I’m going to,” said White, who received her Master of Science in Nursing and already has started work as a health assessment instructor in the School of Nursing. “I feel like I’m dreaming, but I worked hard and sacrificed quite a bit.”
Nursing is a career change for 35-year-old White, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism, then a master’s in mass communications before receiving her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at UMMC in 2010 and working as a trauma nurse. “I knew once I got into this program, I’d pursue a career in nurse education,” she said.
Terica Lomax of Crystal Springs plans to use her Master of Science in Nursing to become a family nurse practitioner following graduation from the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s School of Nursing.
Fellow nursing grad Terica Lomax, 26, of Crystal Springs will use her new Master of Science to work as a family nurse practitioner. “This institution has set the foundation for the rest of my life,” she said. “I’ve obtained the tools I need to be successful. I’m prepared to go anywhere.”
Students and their professors were recognized for excellence in education, with some awards a closely-held secret until commencement.
“It’s a thrilling moment to see a person begin a new chapter as a health-care professional,” Keeton told graduates, reminding them that they’re only at the beginning of their learning process.
Said Jones: “It’s good to know that there’s a new generation … that we can now look to for care. You share a common legacy with all who have gone before you: a mark of quality.”
As jubilant graduates crossed the stage to receive their diplomas, their families took note. “Go, mama!” one audience member yelled. Others were just as passionate. “Alleluia! Thank you, Jesus!” screamed another.
Dr. Ian Paul, professor of psychiatry and human behavior and director of the graduate program in neuroscience, was lauded for winning the 2014 Regions Bank TEACH Prize for outstanding accomplishments in education.
Students receiving top honors were:
• Clara Maria Gomez-Sanchez of Madison, who received the Waller S. Leathers Award for the medical student with the highest academic average for four years;
• Rebecca Lynsey Cumberland of Florence, who received the Wallace V. Mann Award for the dental student with the highest academic average for four years;
• Brennan Morris Williams of Brandon, who received the Christine L. Oglevee Memorial Award as the outstanding School of Nursing baccalaureate graduate;
• Mindy Reed Lafayette of Saltillo, who received the Richard N. Graves Award given to the School of Nursing advanced-standing student deemed most outstanding in the areas of academic and clinical performance;
• Katie Summers Fondren of Sidon, who received the Dr. Virginia Stansel Tolbert Award for the highest academic average in the School of Health Related Professions; and
• Samuel Olusegun Adeosun of Ridgeland, who received the Charles Randall-Trustmark Award for outstanding research achievement.
School of Medicine graduates Tess Sison of Long Beach, Adrienne Webb of Madison and Virginia Wright of Jackson celebrated a fast friendship that began when they met each other in first-year orientation lines. For the last two years, they’ve shared a house with their three very large dogs.
How have they kept up their bond over four stressful years? It’s all about supporting each other and stopping to have a little fun along the way, they say.
“We don’t know each other’s grades. We don’t ask,” said Sison, 27. And, Webb said, “None of us is naturally competitive.”
Sison leaves for a residency at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Webb, 26, and Wright, 27, will complete their residencies at UMMC.
It’s just hitting them, they say, that only weeks from now, they won’t all wake up in the same house. “It’s exciting, but it’s kind of nerve-racking,” Webb said.
“Medical School is over,” Wright said. “We’re about to take the next step.”