University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine graduates 63 new doctors in virtual hooding ceremony

Final medical school milestone goes digital with virtual graduation

A collage of UNR Med medical student graduates, showcasing their hooding moments.

UNR Med Class of 2020 graduating medical students received their academic hoods in advance of the live-streamed ceremony and photographed their hooding moments. UNR Med edited the photos together to be played and viewed by all of the graduates, their families and loved ones during the virutal hooding ceremony. Photo by Lauren Siri/UNR Med.   

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med) hosted its first-ever virtual hooding ceremony, conferring Doctor of Medicine (MD) degrees to 63 fourth-year medical students of the Class of 2020, graduating as northern Nevada's newest physicians. The live-streamed virtual ceremony is now available for on-demand viewing on UNR Med's YouTube channel.

UNR Med took its graduation virtual in compliance with Governor Steve Sisolak's Stay at Home directive for Nevada limiting gatherings to 10 or less as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hosting a digital graduation ceremony is the final medical school milestone for these students who will immediately begin residencies here in northern Nevada, and many will relocate to residencies throughout the state and nation.  

With graduating medical students stepping into their roles at a most vital time, UNR Med Dean, Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D., spoke about the challenges facing today's medical school graduates as a result of the pandemic, thanked students for their dedication, and encouraged them as they take the next step in their careers as physicians.   "On your first day of medical school, none of us could have imagined how unusual this graduation day would become," said Schwenk. "Many of you agreed to step up to the front lines and join the community response to COVID-19. Your commitment to this cause, especially your skills, capacity to adapt, and your compassion have helped care for our community during a time when they have needed you the most," he said. 

Despite the unconventional nature of the ceremony, graduating medical student and UNR Med's Class of 2020 President Misha Fotoohi said the virtual ceremony was the next best thing to being at an in-person ceremony.  

"It's not the medical school graduation day I expected, but UNR Med did an excellent job making it special," Fotoohi said. "The virtual ceremony achieved the same goals that our original graduation would have, in terms of bringing everyone together and honoring all of us who are graduating. I missed my family and friends being there with me in-person, but more of my family watched the virtual ceremony than would have attended, so they all had front row seats and we FaceTimed to celebrate. The pandemic doesn't get to take away one of our proudest moments."  

The hooding ceremony marks the completion of undergraduate medical education for medical students, who now enter residency training. The hooding ceremony, symbolic of passing the guard from one generation of doctors to the next, recognizes those graduating students with MD degrees. The students received their academic hoods in advance of the live-streamed ceremony and pre-recorded each of the students being hooded, while UNR Med edited the videos together to be played and viewed by all of the graduates, their families and loved ones. Graduates recited the Physician's Oath virtually, in real-time, affirming their commitment to the medical profession. With the oath, graduates acknowledged the high standards of performance and ethical behavior to which each physician aspires at every stage of their professional career.  

This year's UNR Med commencement speaker was Patrice Harris, M.D., M.A., president of the American Medical Association (AMA). Dr. Harris, a distinguished psychiatrist from Atlanta, Georgia, became the 174th president of the AMA in June 2019, and the organization's first African-American woman to hold this position. She has diverse experience as a private practicing physician, public health administrator, patient advocate and medical society lobbyist.  

Harris spoke to graduates in a pre-recorded message on how the promotion of diversity in the medical workforce will contribute to better health equity and care, as well as during the COVID-19 pandemic climate. She spoke of the new challenges these new doctors will face, and offered advice for the universal implications in their future residency training.   "You are an inspiration because you are the best kind of over-achievers - those with a profound sense of service and a deep commitment to eradicating inequities in health care," said Harris.   

"The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on people of color, those with few resources and those with no or inadequate health insurance," Harris said to the graduates. "It places special importance on your dedication to address health inequities. We are enormously proud of each and every one of you and are confident that you'll make a huge difference in the lives of your patients and communities."  

With the demand for primary physicians growing faster than supply, UNR Med continues to address this gap with 23% of this year's graduating class entering into primary care residency programs, which includes family medicine, internal medicine, internal medicine/pediatrics, pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology. Approximately 21% of UNR Med students are staying in Nevada for some part of their training,  

"UNR Med is dedicated to increasing the number of physicians in Nevada by educating more medical students, retaining them as residents and ultimately as practicing physicians," Schwenk said. "We're thrilled that four students will be staying in northern Nevada and 10 students have matched throughout the state for some portion of their training. The fact that students want to complete their medical training in Nevada supports our goal of training physicians who recognize the health care needs in our communities and are committed to staying or returning to Nevada. This is a major component of our community-based and community-engaged curriculum model."   

Residency training location is a strong indication of where physicians will likely set up their medical practices following completion of residency and has major implications for the future availability of health care professionals in a given area. This year, 100% of UNR Med residency vacancies were filled, which includes all 53 residency positions throughout internal medicine, family medicine, psychiatry, geriatrics, hospice and palliative medicine, child and adolescent psychology and sports medicine.   

Residency programs and specialties of the Class of 2020 are posted online at med.unr.edu/student-affairs/events/match-day/2020.  

Graduating medical student Tarra Becher said she couldn't be more excited to begin her medical career in Reno. "I chose to stay in Reno because the faculty at UNR Med has always gone above and beyond to provide a phenomenal medical education. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to stay in Reno and complete my psychiatry residency. Growing up here and now having two children of my own, there is nowhere else I would rather be. I am excited to begin my residency program and to continue serving this community that means so much to me," said Becher.     

Established in 1969, Nevada's first public medical school has educated more than 3,500 students, residents and fellows.


Media Contacts

Julie Ardito, APR
Senior Director, Advancement and Engagement
Office: (775) 784-6006

Tessa Bowen, MPA
Communications Manager, Advancement and Engagement
Office: (775) 682-9254

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada's first public medical school, is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision for a healthy Nevada. Established in 1969, UNR Med is improving the health and well-being of all Nevadans and their communities through excellence in student education, postgraduate training and clinical care, research with local, national and global impact and a culture of diversity and inclusion.

Released: Thursday May 14, 2020 @ 1:30 PM