June 4, 2007
By Tom Bosco
Integrity, ethics and a lifelong commitment to learning were common themes as 102 physicians graduated from Ohio University's College of Osteopathic Medicine Saturday morning. Members of the 28th class traded the title "student doctor" for "doctor" and earned their green and white hoods at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium.
"You are prepared to practice medicine with integrity, commitment, respect for each patient and a firm belief that your work can make a real difference, not just in the United States but around the world," Ohio University President Roderick McDavis told the graduates.
The class comprises 59 women and 43 men, including 16 minority students and 13 residents of southeastern Ohio. OU-COM Dean Jack Brose, D.O., addressed the students and reflected upon their first days in the program four years ago.
"At that time, I told you that you were the most academically qualified class that we had enrolled at OU-COM," he said. "Though there was a great deal of pressure on you, I can now reveal that you have exceeded my expectations."
Commencement speaker Alison A. Clarey, D.O., president of the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons, urged the class of 2007 to reject limitations.
"There are two very important thoughts I want to share with you today that I have learned since my graduation from medical school," she said. "First, know no limitations. Second, one person can make a difference.
"We are a profession that wishes to be trusted," Clarey told the graduates. "So we must make an ethical commitment to work for the public interest."
Before receiving her diploma, graduating student Christina Peters addressed her classmates, noting that they have earned the right to set aside the short white coat of students and don the full-length white doctor's coat.
"With the extra inches of material comes more responsibility and a further commitment to serving our patients with caring and compassion," she said. "More importantly, the long white coat and the degree we are about to receive renew our commitment to lifelong learning."
After the commencement exercises, Peters' mother, Julie McClellan, spoke proudly.
"My daughter is a doctor!" she exclaimed. "My heart is just so overwhelmed because she's such a wonderful, beautiful person and she's going to help so many people."
After receiving their diplomas and hoods, the new doctors gathered on the stage of the auditorium, where Brose led them in reciting the osteopathic oath. Earlier in the ceremony, Brose reminded them of the high expectations society will place upon them.
"The information in your head is remarkable, but is no substitute for the content of your heart," Brose said. "You will be judged by your concern for others and your commitment to your community."
Heart is certainly at the core of Kerwyn Flowers' lifework -- growing from a 12-year-old Sunday school teacher to a medical school tutor to a doctor of osteopathic medicine. After graduating with a degree in chemistry from Florida A&M University, Flowers worked as a chemist for GlaxoSmithKline and Lannett Pharmaceuticals. Then her thoughts turned to medicine.
"I had never heard of osteopathy," Flowers says of her experience prior to coming to OU-COM. But when a friend introduced her to the osteopathic principles of approaching the whole person, Flowers was sold. "The philosophy was so similar to what I had always believed about health and wellness."
Another graduate, Eric Greenfield, also took a special route to his medical degree. By the time he enrolled in OU-COM, he already had made more house calls than most physicians make in their entire career, having been a paramedic for nine years. Following that career, he earned a nursing degree and a bachelor's in health sciences and established an emergency medical services degree program at Calhoun Community College in Alabama.
"From seeing people die to delivering babies -- that experience at a formative age really changed me. I think life is precious and I think we have a duty to give back to people."
Two new doctors are embarking on more than just a new career. Leslie and Marc McKinley are beginning a new life together. Leslie, of Canton, and Marc, of St. Louis, met through the program and were married a year ago. They became doctors on Saturday and will be residents together in Akron.
"It's so great, through the whole thing we've been here for each other," Leslie said. "It's just kind of a good finale."
"It's an amazing experience to participate in this with my wife," Marc added.
Leslie intends to practice family medicine while Marc will specialize in internal medicine.
Ohio University's graduate commencement will take place at 9:30 a.m. Friday, June 8, and two undergraduate commencement ceremonies are set for 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, June 9. All three ceremonies will be conducted in the Convocation Center.