First-Year Students Honored at 2014 Freshman Pinning Ceremony

With their proud families and friends looking on, nearly 200 Miller School students in the Class of 2017 were honored on Friday evening, March 7, at the 14th Annual John G. Clarkson Freshman Pinning Ceremony. First-year members of the School’s 15 academic societies lined up at the dais, and as each name was called, the student walked across the platform and received a special pin.

The ceremony, named in honor of Dean Emeritus John G. Clarkson, M.D. ’68, takes place after students have completed more than a full semester of medical school. It welcomes them into the medical profession and into the Miller School “family.” This year, the ceremony was one of the kickoff events to Medical Alumni Weekend. Brian Simmons, a third-year student, and Priyanka Debna and Richa Taneja, both second-year students, were the ceremony directors and introduced the speakers.

“This is a challenging but enormously exciting time to be a physician,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School and CEO of UHealth, who delivered opening remarks to the students. “While we adjust to healthcare reform and stricter funding, we are also privileged to work and study at a time when amazing breakthroughs are being made in stem cell therapy, genomics and biomedical nanotechnology, to name just a few fields. At the Miller School, we are leading the way in these endeavors with physician-scientists who are translating their findings to the bedside of patients faster than ever before.”

In closing, Goldschmidt said, “I remind you of the responsibility we all carry in the medical profession – always put the needs of the patient first.”

The keynote speaker was Steve Charles, M.D. ’69, one of the world’s leading vitreoretinal surgeons. Throughout his four years as a medical student, he was involved in research at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. He interned at Jackson Memorial Hospital and was a resident at Bascom Palmer. His energetic, entertaining message to the students focused on personal qualities that he believes are critical for success in both medicine and in life.

Charles used the alphabet to encapsulate his message. He encouraged the students to think about their goals as the L words: learning, loving, listening and laughing. Instead, he said, too many people focus only on making money, and their lives amount to the A words: adored, amused and addicted. Too many medical practitioners, he said, are concerned only about the M words: Medicare, malpractice and managed care, which are also about money.

Instead, he suggested, embody the H words: hopeful, helpful, healthy, high-energy and happy, which set positive examples for patients, co-workers and all others we come across in our lives.
“Work hard, play hard, give back more than you take, and have fun,” he concluded.

Rimsky Denis, a fourth-year student who serves as Executive Director of the DOCS Program (the Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Department of Community Service), then presented the Arnold P. Gold Humanism in Medicine Award to Stephen Symes, M.D., associate professor of medicine and Assistant Dean for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. “This award is given to a faculty physician who exemplifies the qualities of a caring and compassionate mentor in teaching and advising of medical students,” said Denis. “The nominee must also possess the desirable personal qualities necessary to the practice of patient-centered medicine by teaching ethics, empathy and service by example. The goal of the award is to emphasize, reinforce and enhance the importance of humanistic qualities in medicine.”

“I gratefully accept award on behalf of my patients, and on behalf of the residents, faculty and medical students who provide the care that they receive,” said Symes. “Being a doctor is a privilege, and I believe that each and every day. I apologize for being late, but I was seeing patients. I want to tell all of you, as you move forward, nothing is more special than that.”

The pinning ceremony history was explained to the audience by Erik Kumetz, Student Government Executive President and member of the Class of 2015. Following his remarks, Linda Koshy and Marc Sherwin, both fourth-year students and executive directors of the Miller School’s academic societies, described the history and role of the societies.

For two of the students, the ceremony had extra-special meaning because they received their pins from their fathers, who are both Miller School alumni. Katelin Snow, who majored in mathematics as an undergraduate at Wellesley College, was pinned by her father, Matthew Snow, M.D. ’82, a cardiologist. Andrew Katims, who majored in biology as an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis, was pinned by his father, Lee Katims, M.D. ’78, a radiologist. Andrew’s grandfather, Robert Katims, M.D., a retired endocrinologist who taught at the Miller School from 1960 to 1972, was also present.

The School’s physical size – then and now – was noted by both families. “I can’t believe how much the School has grown and changed since I was a student,” said Matthew Snow. “The work being done here today is really impressive.”

Both students are the fifth generation of their families to go into the medical field. Is there a “medical gene” that runs in some families? “I don’t know about that,” said Lee Katims, “but having physicians in your family gives you exposure to the profession, and I think it gives you the confidence necessary to pursue it.”

When the ceremony was completed, Jeffrey Block, M.D. ’82, president of the University of Miami Medical Alumni Association, led the newly pinned freshman class in the Declaration of Geneva, the oath taken at the time of being admitted as a member of the medical profession.

A rousing version of UM’s Alma Mater, led by Alex Mechaber, M.D. ’94, Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education and associate professor of medicine, and Hilit Mechaber, M.D. ’95, Associate Dean for Student Services, and members of “Doctor’s Note” closed out the ceremony, and the students and their families gathered for photographs and refreshments in the Schoninger Research Quadrangle.

To view a photo gallery of the pinning ceremony, click here.

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