Published May 4, 2020
The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences graduated 147 medical students during its 174th commencement on May 1. It marked the first virtual commencement ceremony in the school’s history.
Eleven students in the Class of 2020 earned dual degrees:
In a video message, Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the medical school, presented opening remarks and noted the unusual circumstances of this year’s graduation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, pointing out that the graduating class is an integral part of the UB medical school community, which itself is serving a critical role in the response to the pandemic in Western New York and elsewhere.
Thirty-six Jacobs School graduates, nearly a quarter of the class, will continue their training in medical residencies at UB in Western New York hospitals while working on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19; 23 graduates will head downstate to begin working in New York City and Long Island.
The experience this year’s graduating MDs have had with the COVID-19 pandemic uniquely positions them to enter the medical field at such an unprecedented time, Cain told graduates.
“Although this year’s venue is different, the value of your graduation is unprecedented. You are a unique group of new physicians,” Cain said. “You are experiencing firsthand how rapidly a virulent pathogen infects the peoples of our world and overwhelms our health care system.”
Cain noted the graduates have witnessed the tragedy of thousands of patient deaths and have been forced to realize early in their careers that physicians are vulnerable and are not immune to disease.
“You now better understand the urgency of accelerating scientific discovery and translating new knowledge into better technologies and better treatments,” he said.
“You will be at the forefront of this and your time in Buffalo has well prepared you to be a leader in this process,” Cain added. “You are already seasoned physicians who understand, better than most, the leadership roles you must accept.”
Class speaker Aaron Sing Bola, MD, delivered some heartfelt messages to his fellow classmates.
“We are going into a profession where we — at the very core it — will be taking care of people. Before you take the plunge, I would like to remind you all to take care of yourselves and always remember who took care of you along the way.”
Bola noted “we are living in a world where there are so many antagonistic sentiments that can affect how you view each other, whether you like it or not and whether you are aware or not.”
“Please do not let these sentiments get in the way of equitable, nonjudgmental and compassionate care,” he said. “Remember that how you take care of your patients sets the trajectory for the rest of their stay in the system. Pandemic or no pandemic, be sure to set them up well.”
Bola also recalled being asked a few years ago if he thought Buffalo put together a good class.
“Without hesitation I said ‘yes’ because every day I learned something new, exciting and admirable about all of you,” he said. “And because you are a diverse bunch of good people from all sorts of backgrounds who I know can and will do the most good.”
Nicholas J. Silvestri, MD ’04, president of the Medical Alumni Association (MAA), welcomed the graduates as the newest members of the alumni network.
Michelle Whittum, MD, a member of the Jacobs School’s Class of 2020, sang the National Anthem to open the ceremony and the UB Alma Mater at the close.
Following the formal virtual commencement ceremony, the graduates participated in a post-commencement live hooding ceremony via a two-hour Zoom meeting streamed on YouTube.
Each of the new physicians took a few minutes to thank family, friends and faculty before being “hooded” while wearing a navy blue Jacobs School hoodie donated by the MAA.
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences graduate Grace Guadalupe attends the school's virtual commencement ceremony in her home in Tonawanda on May 1.
Grace Guadalupe with her parents at her virtual commencement ceremony. She will conduct research for a year before beginning a residency in family medicine.
Aaron Bola poses for a portrait at his apartment in Buffalo on the day of his graduation from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Bola is wearing the special sweatshirt the school sent to all graduates.
Farzana Z. Ali poses with her mother on graduation day outside her apartment on the North Campus. Ali will complete her PhD in biomedical engineering at Stony Brook University.
Alex Sunshine, who graduated with an MD/PhD, celebrates with his good friend Jerry Kong, a fellow UB alumnus. Photo courtesy of Alex Sunshine.