Dean’s Reflections: Graduating into a global pandemic

News & Events

Collage of 2020 Graduates


The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine has extraordinary medical and physician assistant studies students. And these students are going to graduate into an extraordinary world, in all definitions of the word.

Our medical school's Class of 2020 was the first in our history to graduate virtually, with a special and exceptionally creative ceremony. I have participated in over 40 Doctor of Medicine graduation ceremonies, and each one has been special in its own way for graduates and their friends and family members. However last week, the Class of 2020 graduated in an unprecedented way for these unprecedented times. The global pandemic did not stop us from recognizing their accomplishments and sending them on their way to a successful career of service and commitment.

Contributing to the process that has caused their transformation from students to physicians is one of my greatest joys-a joy shared by all faculty and staff members at UNR Med. The medical world faced by these physicians will be particularly challenging, but we have no doubt they are more than capable and prepared to respond.

They likely wish they were not graduating into a global pandemic. But generations of physicians-dating back a hundred years to the Spanish influenza and before-did not get to choose the world into which they graduated. They could only choose how they dealt with it, and what they made of it.

Twenty-somethings in World War II often said after the war that they never felt more scared-and they never felt more alive. History now celebrates their contributions as part of what we call the Greatest Generation. Our Class of 2020 physicians are part of what will likely become another great generation.

Past global convulsions brought extraordinary tragedy, loss and sadness. They also brought some of the most dramatic changes ever seen in every sector of human knowledge and endeavor-social, political, spiritual, economic, legal, and scientific-but especially medical.

These physicians will learn things, see things and do things that my colleagues and I cannot imagine. The challenges-and therefore the opportunities-are endless. The pandemic will result in fundamental changes in our approach to public health, how our health care system is organized, our understanding of virology, new clinical procedures and treatments, how to manage grieving and loss while quarantined, and how to support one another during unimaginable stress and tragedy.

The pandemic has exposed social, racial, gender and economic inequities that these physicians will address. They will manage the widespread mental health consequences that are expected in the pandemic's aftermath. For all of this, they will be well served by their compassion and humanism.

The reason we know the world will be served well by these new physicians is because of how they and their classmates behind them responded in the past two months to the pandemic. Nearly 100 of our students have volunteered more than 3,300 hours of service to our community, the Washoe County Health Department, the Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority (REMSA), the Washoe County School District and Elko County. They have organized personal and home support for frontline health care workers, and provided critical testing and screening services. They have amply demonstrated the professionalism and commitment that characterize all health care professions.

Graduation is a time of great celebration, with just a touch of bittersweet. We are happy for these students and their success, and sad that they are leaving. Above all we are proud to welcome them as alumni and colleagues. The critical contributions they will make in the coming years to bring us out of this global cataclysm motivate us all even more to continue our tradition of outstanding medical education, so these graduates are always proud to say that they graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020!

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: Monday May 18, 2020 @ 4:00 PM