Internal Medicine Residents Graduation, 2020

In graduation celebrations past, scores of family and friends gathered in a hall inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, posed tightly together for group photos, plucked appetizers from common trays, and hugged. Lots of hugs were shared.

Things looked slightly different than that on Tuesday evening. A concern for safety had to match the amount of pride that would normally compel the Department of Internal Medicine to pull out all the stops for our graduating residents. So, a plan was devised.

A call was made to alumni, faculty, and staff to submit words of congratulation. A Zoom link was registered with a sizable attendance cap. The Library, the Bean Conference Room, and the Medical Alumni Auditorium were all reserved to allow for social distancing. The in-person attendees, limited to a few members of department, the Education team leadership, and the graduates themselves, divided up among the three locations. Most important, significant others, family, friends, and colleagues from around the world all logged on to watch the event. Attendance has never been higher.

Vice Chair for Education Manish Suneja, MD, is also the Internal Medicine Residency Program Director. Suneja kicked off the event with words of welcome to all and a speech congratulation the graduates who persevered and even shined under extraordinary circumstances.

Following Suneja’s remarks, each of the Associate Program Directors had a chance to offer their own congratulations and last words of advice: Gwen Beck, MD; Justin Smock, MD; Vicky Kijewski, MD; Andrea Weber, MD, MME; and Brian Gehlbach, MD. Associate Dean of Graduate Medical Education Mark Wilson, MD, MPH, spoke about the difficult year the graduates faced. Program Administrator Cindy Batzkiel, who year in and year out builds such close bonds ensuring every aspect of the resident’s life is working smoothly, addressed a few graduates by name with specific aspects she will miss. E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD, rounded out the speeches with a reminder that this graduating class was the first he helped recruit after becoming Department Chair and that he has always taken great pride in “bragging about you” when he talks with leaders at other institutions.

Video part 1. Welcome and Associate Program Director remarks

Following the opening remarks, graduates began to move through, called up front one by one to receive their certificate and a small plaque bearing their names and their years of attendance, to pose for a few photos. Each graduate was also invited to say a few words to the assembled guests.  

Video part 2. Graduates – Categorical

After the categorical graduates, those interns who spend a preliminary year of internship with us before moving into other specialties had their chance to take the stage. A few of them mentioned that the strength of Iowa’s Internal Medicine program helped persuade them to choose Iowa for their categorical residency. One prelim, Evelyn Qin, MD, presented Suneja with a piece of art she had painted as a thank-you gift. This year’s sole graduate of the Medicine-Psychiatry residency program was also recognized.

Video part 3. Graduates – Preliminary and Medicine Psychiatry

The departing Chief Residents were also recognized. Each of them saying a few words to the graduates as well as the program leadership. They also offered a gift to Suneja to express their gratitude for his compassion and availability at all hours to help guide them through every obstacle. The crowd in Med Alum rose to their feet, and a clearly moved Suneja thanked them all.

Two last pieces of business remained. The last two resident-selected Education Awards needed to be announced. Austin Greco, MD, accepted the Residents’ Award for Excellence. For the Outstanding Teacher Award, Abel returned to the podium to reveal that he had been asked to make an “executive overrule” in allowing a name to remain on the ballot. This year’s winner, Manish Suneja, always removes himself from consideration, and the residents asked Abel to place him back on. Given the amazing example he has set guiding the program through the storms of 2019-20, Suneja had to be considered, Abel said.

With that, the evening concluded. A few congratulatory chat messages came through Zoom, a few carefully composed group photos were taken, and the Class of 2020 made their way out into the evening and the next stage of their sure-to-be-illustrious careers.

Video part 4. Chief Residents and Awards

Congratulations to the Resident Class of 2020!

Graduating & Departing Residents

Nick Arnold Thorarinn Bjarnason Jason Cascio
Mohsan Chaudhry Devashree Dave Austin Greco
Aziz Hammoud Amanda Heuszel Iiro Honkanen
Alissa Kauffman Benham Laderian Ray Lu
Matt McGee Lakshmi Nagarajan Don Nguyen
Lena Sabih Kevin Sanchez Matt Smith
Matt Soltys Roger Struble Luis Vargas Buonfiglio
Nick Williford Dana Zhao Matt Field
Zach Mortensen Evelyn Qin Tirth Shah
Maggie Strampe Madeliene Stump Kendra Tan
Caroline Yu Allister Wilton
Chief Residents
Salman Ansari Brenden Boyle
Andrei Schwartz Jennifer Strouse

To view the slideshow of photographs of all the graduates running during the event itself: 2020 Internal Medicine Residency Graduation Slideshow

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