The members of Texas A&M College of Medicine’s Class of 2020 marked their final educational milestone virtually Saturday as they celebrated the end of medical school with a Zoom graduation and by reciting the Hippocratic Oath from their homes.

Ankita Brahmaroutu, who graduated Saturday, said, “It was disappointing that we couldn’t have it in person, but, to me, the day mattered so much more of the fact that we were all getting our MDs, and, to me, that was enough and being with my family was enough. The disappointment wore off pretty quickly, and it was still a very exciting day.”

The journey to becoming a doctor began in late middle school or early high school, she said, calling it surreal to be a graduate and just a month away from starting her neurology residency at the University of Pennsylvania.

Graduation was the second major event the medical school graduates celebrated virtually, with March 20’s Match Day being forced online as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened.

“Today is a time to celebrate your achievements and the exciting future in store for you,” Interim Dean of the College of Medicine Amy Waer said. “You have tirelessly and relentlessly conquered this stage of your schooling. The world threw a global health pandemic at you during your last semester, and you all still graduated. I will be proud of you today. I will be proud of you next week. And I will be proud of you for the years to come.”

Gary McCord, associate dean for student affairs for the college, said two years ago he told the class he had a date with each of them on May 16, 2020.

“And here we are; you made it,” he said before administering the Hippocratic Oath to each of the graduates.

The oath may be old-fashioned, he said, but he hoped it would remind each of them that when they are tempted to give less than their best, they took an oath to do what is right by each patient.

Even though everything was done virtually, graduate Ryan Alonzo said, it brought a sense of normalcy and gave each graduate a chance to celebrate.

As he looks forward to beginning his general surgery residency at Methodist Hospital in Houston, he said, it is met with a mix of nervousness and excitement.

Through their years in medical school, Julie England said, all the graduates have learned how to face terrible things and celebrate the beautiful moments.

“Believe it or not, somehow we learned to not be afraid,” said England, who will be doing her residency in internal medicine at the University of Alabama. “We learned hope. We may not feel ready, but because of lessons like this, the people here at A&M, we are ready.”

Each graduate’s decision to pursue medicine will shape the rest of their lives, Madeline Smoot, class president, said, noting the public places “immense trust” in their every action and decision as physicians.

Smoot, who will be doing her residency in internal medicine at the University of Florida, acknowledged they may feel awkward and out of place when they first introduce themselves as doctors, but each of them has the opportunity to choose to work hard, be cheerful and “see the best in impossible situations.”

There are no grades, she said, but they will have tests in how they address situations and help people.

“When, not if, we get tired, let’s pause and take a moment to breathe and think about why we gave these years to medicine and why we’re pursuing the delayed gratification of what some would call an educational marathon,” she said.

Smoot also emotionally remembered their classmate Andrew Sutter, who died during their first year, and announced the remaining money from the class fund would be donated to the Andrew Sutter College of Medicine scholarship.

“I hope that we can all carry his spirit and kindness toward others with us into our clinical practice.”

Also part of the graduation was the commissioning of five graduates as captains in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army and lieutenants in the U.S. Navy.

“Up to this point, it has been my pleasure to call you my friends,” McCord said, “but now as of this moment, it is my privilege to call you my colleagues. Best of luck to all of you.”

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