The University of Mississippi Medical Center for the fifth year is breaking its record for degrees conferred to health care and health science professionals.
The Class of 2017 is 971 strong. In 2016, the number was 950. In 2013, the record was 677. That jumped to 847 in 2014, and in 2015, 863 graduates received degrees.
The graduates of the schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, Nursing, and Health Related Professions are beginning their careers with the aim of improving health and the quality of life for people across Mississippi and the nation. They were recognized Friday during UMMC's 61st Commencement at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
Of this year's graduates, 690 attended commencement and received their diplomas.
“There are just four things that I want you to take with you,” Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, told graduates.
Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, addresses the Class of 2017.
“Number one, this is only the beginning of your learning process,” she said. “Number two, deal with others and those you serve with a deep respect for their differences.
“Number three, our nation will continue to struggle with ways to care for the sick. You can play a role in finding a solution to this struggle.
“Number four, you will never practice any health profession well if you don't have a good time doing it,” Woodward said.
School of Medicine graduate Jefferson Rogers walked across the stage a couple of semesters later than he'd planned. Five months of the delay were grueling. That's how chemotherapy usually is.
Even before he began medical school, he noticed the lumps on his neck that kept getting bigger. He got them checked, but “I really never knew what was going on,” said Rogers, 28, who grew up in Collins. “I thought it might be cancer, but I was told twice it was (the bacterial infection) cat scratch fever.”
He had just started his third year of medical school when a resident looked at his neck during rounds. “He said it looked asymmetrical. Even before that, I suspected I had some kind of cancer.”
He got it checked; it was Hodgkin's lymphoma. “The hardest part was telling my family,” Rogers said.
He began chemotherapy Oct. 13, 2014, ended it on March 13, 2015, and was back in class that June. He leaves in June for a psychiatry residency at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
“It certainly has changed my perspective,” Rogers said of his cancer journey. “It's helped me to relate to patients with similar problems.”
Graduation means Byram resident Adreana Crosby will no longer be a Navy brat.
She and her family have spent time in Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, California, Connecticut, and most recently, in Collins, a little more than an hour from the Medical Center.
It was in eighth grade that she made her decision to be a nurse. “My uncle was supposed to be my escort for homecoming, but he had an accident that left him paralyzed,” said Crosby, 22. “We spent four months going back and forth from Collins to UMMC. He was in the ICU.
“I was able to see how the nurses cared for him and our family. I knew then that I wanted to be a nurse.”
She recently got a job in UMMC's NICU, where she spent time training as a student. “I fell in love with them,” she said of the newborns. “I got to experience parents being their most vulnerable. I know God placed me there. I have a heart full of love.”
The University of Mississippi in Oxford and UMMC together enrolled 24,250 students this school year, 20,455 in Oxford, 2,990 at the Medical Center, and 1,468 at other campuses, said University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter.
“Those of you who will receive your degrees today and soon begin practicing the healing arts share a common legacy with all who have gone before you, and that is a mark of quality,” he said. “We are confident that you are well prepared for your next steps of training or to assume your responsibility as a health care provider.”
About 690 students in the Class of 2017 attended commencement ceremonies. A total 971 students graduated this spring.
Among the degrees conferred:
School of Medicine, 137 graduates receiving the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree.
School of Dentistry, 44 graduates receiving the Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree.
School of Nursing, 453 graduates receiving either the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.), Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.), or Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.)
School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, 87 graduates receiving either the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree or the Master of Science (M.S.) degree.
School of Health Related Professions, 250 graduates receiving either the Doctorate in Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) or Doctorate in Health Administration (D.H.A.); Master of Occupational Therapy (M.O.T.); Master of Science (M.S.) in Health Sciences, Health Informatics and Information Management, Magnetic Resonance Imaging or Nuclear Technology; or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Radiologic Sciences, Dental Hygiene, Medical Laboratory Science, Health Sciences, or Health Informatics and Information Management.
Among those receiving accolades was Dr. William Daley, professor of pathology in the School of Medicine. He is winner of the 2017 Regions TEACH Prize, given to the person who most represents the highest qualities of the Medical Center's academic faculty.
Dr. Jessica Bailey, dean of the School of Health Related Professions, gives a diploma to James Kimbrough, who earned the doctor of physical therapy degree and was honored with the Dr. Virginia Stansel Tolbert award as the student with the highest academic average in the School of Health Related Professions.
The six students who received top honors were:
Patrick Christian Carr, Waller S. Leathers Award for the medical student with the highest academic average for four years;
Sarah Burnham Kimbrough, Wallace V. Mann Jr. Award for the dental student with the highest academic average for four years;
Megan Elizabeth Christy, Christine L. Oglevee Memorial Award for the outstanding School of Nursing baccalaureate graduate;
Julie Willis Kilpatrick, Richard N. Graves Award for the registered nurse deemed most outstanding by the faculty in clinical and overall performance;
James Bryson Kimbrough, Dr. Virginia Stansel Tolbert award for the student with the highest academic average in the School of Health Related Professions.
Xiaochen He, Randall-Trustmark Award for outstanding research achievement by a graduate student.