Virtual Commencement

Top photo: Clockwise from top left: Suzie Shoffner, Chloe Ramirez Biermann, Ben Tooke, and Andrew Neevel

Medical students Suzie Shoffner, Chloe Ramirez Biermann, Ben Tooke, and Andrew Neevel sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" to open the Medical School's 2020 commencement ceremony, which took place online this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In "The Very Normal Graduation Speech You Deserve," Josh Kurtz (M.D. 2020) directly addressed "the virtual infectious elephant in the room: COVID-19. COVID, I would like to first remind you that you aren't even technically considered a living thing. In fact, E. Coli., a bacteria that spends most of its time hanging out around feces in our intestinal tracts, is technically considered more alive than you," he said, presumably to laughter in the living rooms of the 173 graduates. But Kurtz continued on a sober note: "While I like to use humor to cope during difficult times, I would like to take a brief moment to acknowledge what we have lost during this pandemic: celebrations, connections, and most importantly, the lives of our loved ones." 

Even though the celebration was virtual, the medical degrees were real. The class of 2020 can now join the fight against COVID-19 as full-fledged physicians. To view the full commencement, visit For more on the class of 2020's journey through medical school, check out the new documentary, Four Years in Blue, at

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