PHOENIX – After being led by a bagpipe and drum corps, the second group of full-time Phoenix-based University of Arizona medical students walked out of the Phoenix Convention Center on May 9 as physicians.
Degrees were conferred on the 40 students at the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix by UA President Eugene G. Sander, and then the students recited the oath developed by the first class of downtown Phoenix medical school students in July 2007. The ceremony included speeches from Rick Myers, chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents, and graduating student Zach Ortiz.
Ortiz, originally from New Mexico, moved to Arizona to establish residency so he could apply to the UA College of Medicine. He taught high school biology in the Phoenix area as part of the Teach for America program and was admitted. He earned a scholarship while in medical school and will pursue family medicine as a resident at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center.
"We are just the second class of UA-Phoenix graduates," Ortiz said during his address. "We have endured countless exams, survived lengthy days and nights, of course, matched into our future fields of practice and in so doing successfully carried the torch passed to us by the inaugural class of 2011. It's a big deal for our city and our state, who have now produced a new generation of young physicians in front of our ongoing shortages."
Wednesday's event began with a procession of faculty members and students from the Phoenix Biomedical Campus led by the bagpipe and drum corps to the convention center for the traditional hooding ceremony and recognition.
"Your everyday actions to heal people will have an immense ripple effect on families and society," Myers said. "You will allow people to live healthier lives, create more memories and build stronger family ties. That impact is immeasurable. Now, as if that wasn't pressure enough, we're also going to look to you to find solutions to the complex health care issues facing our nation and our state while at the same time advancing research into devastating diseases."
The UA College of Medicine-Phoenix opened in 2007 as a way for the state to address the critical shortage of physicians in Arizona. More than half of the first two groups of graduates will be staying in Arizona for their residencies and pursuing primary care specialties, the area of most critical need.
Dr. Stuart Flynn, dean of the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix, noted that as the second class of students to graduate, they faced great expectations but responded admirably.
"Amazingly, this class was not threatened by the first class, but they also listened to and learned from them and worked nicely with them to help grow this campus," Flynn said. "Critically, when younger classes subsequently arrived, they assumed the role of leadership and guidance, nurturing their younger peers, passing on best practices they had learned over the years, but also allowing the younger classes to grow and have their own identity."
The graduation culminates the four years of classroom and clinical instruction medical students received in Phoenix, which prior to 2007 had been the largest city in the nation without an allopathic (MD-granting) medical school.
The five-year-old downtown Phoenix campus currently has 183 students training in the historic former Phoenix Union High School buildings with that number set to grow with the completion of the Health Sciences Education Building this summer.