Class of 2015 Celebrates First Year at Pinning Ceremony

As co-director of the Miller School’s 12th Annual John. G. Clarkson Freshman Pinning Ceremony, second-year medical student Chad Parvus wanted to ensure that members of the Class of 2015 would recall the event— which officially welcomes first-year students into the medical profession— with the same joy he felt a year ago.

“The Pinning Ceremony is one of the things that makes the first year special for new medical students,” Parvus said, after completing his hosting duties at the February 10 ceremony with student Mitch Phillips. “It is definitely a time to celebrate, but it also marks the moment when you join the extended Miller School family. No matter where in the world their medical career takes them, they’ll always have this special day, this special pin, and a big family of supporters.”

Not even the thunderous skies and torrent of rain that pelted the large, white tent pitched in the Schoninger Research Quadrangle could mar the special moments for the 206 students, including 52 who last summer launched the University of Miami’s inaugural M.D./M.P.H. program. One of a few in the country, the program enables students to earn both degrees in four years rather than the customary five.

Queuing up with members of the academic society to which they are assigned, the students crossed the stage one by one and stood proudly as a faculty member or a Miller School alumnus–in some cases their father, brother or another relative–affixed the gold, green and orange pin depicting the Miller School’s mission statement to their white coat.

Before the rite of passage ensued, the students and their guests listened intently to encouraging words from Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., and an impassioned speech by Dean Emeritus John G. Clarkson, M.D., who gave his first keynote address at the ceremony that bears his name.

Clarkson centered his remarks on the importance of close and meaningful doctor-patient relationships, especially in light of the rapid pace, constant technological advancements, fragmentation and spiraling cost of health care today.

“Your responsibility, Class of 2015,” Clarkson said, “is not to be problem-focused, but to be patient-focused … The one-on-one a physician has with his patient is unparalleled.”

Dean Goldschmidt echoed a similar sentiment in his remarks.

“By now, you all have a sense of the dedication, focus and commitment needed to become a physician and serve patients for a lifetime,” Dean Goldschmidt said. “I’m sure you also know that the Miller School’s talented and devoted faculty will always be here to guide and train you, so that at the end of your four years with us, you will have become the best doctors possible … I remind you of the responsibility we all carry in the medical profession: to always put the patient first.”

With much bravado, upperclassmen who serve as directors at each of the 15 academic societies, informed the audience that their particular society was the best and brightest. Parents and other onlookers laughed at the one-upmanship. Their pride, though, was palpable.

As an alum of the Class of 1981, David Perlmutter, M.D., was able to pin his son Austin David.

“We never did this,” said the elder Perlmutter, now a neurologist in Naples. “But ceremonies are a wonderful thing. When I saw him on stage it was one of the proudest moments of my life.”

Austin said the pinning ceremony will remain memorable. “I know he’s glad that I’m following his footsteps, but I also know that he would be happy with whatever I chose,” he said. “But this is what I wanted to do for a long time. Today makes it really meaningful.”

Mark T. O’Connell, M.D., senior associate dean for educational development and the Bernard J. Fogel Chair in Medical Education who received the 2011 Alpha Omega Alpha Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Award, used his time on stage to thank support staff who were key in advancing many of his accomplishments — including the creation of the academic societies program.

“At the end of the day we’d never get anything done if it weren’t for the staff,” he said.

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