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Class of 2018 is family friendly

Published on Thursday, May 31, 2018

Media Contact: Ruth Cummins

Dr. Louis Harkey attended graduation practice the day before the University of Mississippi Medical Center's 62nd Commencement, something he’s dutifully done every year for almost three decades.

But this time, it was different.

“I got chill bumps when I heard them call her name,” said Harkey, professor and Robert R. Smith Chair of Neurosurgery and a UMMC faculty member since 1990.

New School of Medicine graduate Claire Harkey celebrates with her father, Dr. Louis Harkey, immediately after he hooded her during May 25 commencement exercises.
New School of Medicine graduate Claire Harkey celebrates with her father, Dr. Louis Harkey, immediately after being hooded by him during Commencement May 25.

That’s Claire Harkey, his oldest of four children and a 2018 School of Medicine graduate, who on July 1 begins a pediatric residency at the Medical Center. Claire was born during Harkey’s UMMC neurosurgery residency.

“For four years, I’ve watched her go through the process I did three or four decades ago,” Harkey said. “I’ve watched her struggle, and I’ve watched her succeed. To have her walk across the stage and receive the diploma ….I’m getting to do what I’ve envied my colleagues doing for many years.”

Harkey is one of 11 faculty members who placed a hood around the neck of a graduating family member during ceremonies last Friday at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. Although a good handful of students are hooded by relatives at each commencement, this year saw five School of Dentistry graduates hooded by family faculty, and another six in the School of Medicine.

Mary Catherine Hoover is hooded by her Dad, Dr. Dennis Hoover.
Mary Catherine Hoover is hooded by her father, Dr. Dennis Hoover.

The Class of 2018 is 930 strong. Graduates of the schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, Nursing, and Health Related Professions are leaving campus with the aim of improving health and quality of life for residents of Mississippi and beyond.

Of this year’s graduates, 677 received diplomas during commencement. Faculty members who have children or spouses graduating have the option to break from tradition to make hooding a family affair.

Those pairings from the School of Dentistry:

Alex Carlton Downs, hooded by his father, Dr. Larry Downs, clinician-educator in Care Planning and Restorative Sciences.

Mary Catherine Hoover, hooded by her father, Dr. Dennis Hoover, clinician-educator in Care Planning and Restorative Sciences.

Olha Dmytryshyn McKay, hooded by her husband, Dr. Kevin McKay, assistant professor of radiologic sciences.

James Chesnut Moore III, hooded by his wife, Dr. Alecia Moore, clinician-educator in Care Planning and Restorative Sciences.

Tyler Samuel Wheeler, hooded by his father, Dr. Edward Wheeler, clinician-educator in Care Planning and Restorative Sciences.

In addition to Claire Harkey, from the School of Medicine:

Marco Giorgio Aru, hooded by his father, Dr. Giorgio Aru, professor of surgery.

William Spence Crews, hooded by his mother, Dr. Karen Crews, professor emeritus of dentistry.

Gaylen Danielle Patterson, hooded by her mother, Dr. Ruth Patterson, associate professor of pediatrics.

Divya Shenoy, hooded by her mother, Dr. Veena Shenoy, associate professor of pathology.

Stephen Daniel Wahl, hooded by his mother, Dr. Nancy Wahl, associate professor of pediatrics.

Acting, not medicine, had been on Claire Harkey’s mind since she was a kindergartener. “I loved being on stage and being dramatic,” she said. “That was my life’s dream for the longest time.”

But after several years in New York didn’t launch that career, she returned to Mississippi, graduating from Millsaps College, but still not going into medicine. She spent a year in Honduras as a teacher.

Even so, a History of Medicine course she took at Millsaps had piqued her interest in becoming a physician. She was accepted into the medical school before she made her way back from Honduras.

New School of Medicine graduate Stephen Wahl is hooded by his mother, Dr. Nancy Wahl, associate professor of pediatric emergency medicine.
New School of Medicine graduate Stephen Wahl is hooded by his mother, Dr. Nancy Wahl, associate professor of pediatric emergency medicine.

She was thrilled to have her father place her hood around her shoulders – even though she hid the fact that he was her dad when she first hit campus.

“We talked about me doing this on my own merit, and not name-dropping him,” she said. “He said that the only time he wanted to be recognized is when he hooded me at graduation.”

Her secret wasn’t safe for long. “No one knew until he lectured for us our first year,” Claire said. “People asked me about it right away. The name is not that common.”

In contrast Divya Shenoy hung out during breaks at the office of her mom. “Sometimes, we’d eat lunch with each other,” said Divya, who begins a residency in diagnostic radiology this summer at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.

“She’s such an inspiration to me. She’s a doctor, a great mom, and she has cooked dinner every night for our family since I was a kid,” Divya said. “My whole life I’ve seen her at home, so it’s been nice to see her in her element in a professional setting. She is an amazing woman.”

Divya Shenoy is hooded by her mother, Dr. Veena Shenoy, associate professor of pathology.
Divya Shenoy is hooded by her mother, Dr. Veena Shenoy, associate professor of pathology.

Shenoy thinks her daughter is pretty amazing, and then some. “She’s getting married next week,” Shenoy said the day before graduation. “She’s excited about graduation, and trying to do all the wedding arrangements at the same time.”

There will be two ceremonies, a church wedding on June 2 in Minnesota and a traditional Hindu wedding June 9 in Atlanta. Divya’s fiancé, Daniel Zarama, just finished his first year as an interventional radiology resident at the University of Minnesota.

Any faculty member can hood a family graduate if the faculty member holds an equivalent degree, said Dr. Ralph Didlake, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“We have a record, or near record, number of hooders this year, and we have a much larger number of parent hooders this year,” Didlake said. “It’s exciting. We’re seeing second- and third-generation providers hooding their children.”

Will Crews is hooded by his mother, Dr. Karen Crews
Will Crews is hooded by his mother, Dr. Karen Crews.

Each year, a number of graduates are recognized for their exemplary academics and potential as health care professionals. The six students who received top honors were:

Hadley Jo Pearson, Waller S. Leathers Award for the medical student with the highest academic average for four years;

Andrew Ngoc Tran, Wallace V. Mann Jr. Award for the dental student with the highest academic average for four years;

Luke Anderson LeBlanc, Christine L. Oglevee Memorial Award for the outstanding School of Nursing baccalaureate graduate;

Lila Robin, Richard N. Graves Award for the registered nurse deemed most outstanding by the faculty in clinical and overall performance;

Lauren Marie Seal, Dr. Virginia Stansel Tolbert award for the student with the highest academic average in the School of Health Related Professions;

Kasi Christine McPherson, Marshal of the Class, Robert A. Mahaffey Jr. Memorial Award to recognize exceptional research potential of young investigators.

Also recognized was Dr. Amol Janorkar, professor of biomedical materials science in the School of Dentistry and the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences. He is winner of the 2018 Regions TEACH Prize, given to the person who most represents the highest qualities of the Medical Center's academic faculty.