On May 11, the Keck School of Medicine of USC celebrated the success of its 105 newly minted graduates from the Global Health and Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Studies undergraduate programs. Held in the elegant Town and Gown ballroom at USC’s University Park Campus, the ceremony provided an opportunity for graduates to reflect on their undergraduate journeys together and to look forward to the many new paths they will travel.

Undergraduates process into Town and Gown during the May 11 commencement ceremony. (Photo/GradImages)

Graduates and guests heard from Michael Hochman, MD, MPH, clinical associate professor of medicine at the Keck School, who serves as director of the USC Gehr Family Center for Health Systems Science. As a leader of the center’s efforts to help health systems deliver better, more efficient care, Hochman was an ideal commencement speaker for graduates who aim to be the next generation of change-makers in health care.

“Health care is a team sport,” Hochman said, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and teamwork in the provision of patient care. In addition to advising graduates to put patients first and work hard, Hochman advised graduates not to expect perfection from themselves or others, and to remain optimistic.

“You’ll encounter challenges,” he said. “The more you think positively, the better off you will be. Be optimistic.”

More than 100 students graduated from the Keck School’s undergraduate programs. (Photo/GradImages)

Three graduates also shared their insights with their classmates: Sammy Cohen, Annie Yang, and Nathan Dhablania. Cohen, who was named salutatorian for the university’s 2018 class and who graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average, spoke about the tools and knowledge that the Keck School’s classes provided graduates to work toward social justice and eliminate health care disparities.

“Keck has taught us to think critically and creatively, and to never forget that the human connection is the spark that ignites solutions,” said Cohen, who plans to continue to his work with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and his efforts to help homeless individuals maintain continuity in their health care before he applies to medical school.

Graduate Annie Yang, who also graduated with her master’s degree in global medicine as a progressive degree student, spoke about the strength of the community that shaped the graduates’ growth at USC.

A patio reception followed the undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 11. (Photo/GradImages)

“I hope we will think back with love on our triumphs and our failures and the people who showed us kindness through both,” Yang reflected. Yang will become a triple Trojan this fall as she begins the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at the Keck School.

Graduate Nathan Dhablania shared insight he gained through his extensive volunteering both in Los Angeles and Panama: knowledge and opportunity are most rewarding when shared with others. He encouraged fellow graduates not to lose sight of the importance of generosity, saying, “As we go forth, there is no limit to where USC’s ripple of influence can touch.” Dhablania will continue his studies at USC as he pursues a master of science in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.

Family and friends celebrate with graduates during a reception after the Keck School’s undergraduate commencement ceremony. (Photo/GradImages)

Program Director Elahe Nezami, PhD, associate dean for undergraduate, masters and professional programs, ended the ceremony by echoing the praise of the graduate speakers for the strength of the community. Of the 20 graduates who earned university distinctions as Global, Renaissance or Discovery Scholars, five also earned $10,000 scholarships for graduate study, she noted. Achievements of the class also included admissions to prestigious medical and dental schools, as well as exciting opportunities including the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

“Parents, family, and friends, this is a day to celebrate!” Nezami said. “Thank you for all you have done to help our graduates. Today these efforts truly shine.”

The Health Promotion and Global Health celebrations continued with a patio reception featuring light refreshments and many cheers and smiles — a community tradition.

— Ginny DeFrank

Graduates smile after the Health Promotion and Global Health commencement ceremony. (Photo/GradImages)

The Keck School undergraduate commencement ceremony included a reception for graduates, friends and family. (Photo/GradImages)