On May 10, 90 new graduates from the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s undergraduate programs in Global Health and Health Promotion and Disease Prevention celebrated their accomplishments together at Town and Gown, a historic venue on USC’s University Park Campus. The ballroom was buzzing with the cheers and applause of family and friends gathered to watch the graduates commemorate earning their bachelor’s degrees from the Keck School. Associate Dean for Undergraduate, Master’s, and Professional Programs, and Director of both the undergraduate majors, Elahe Nezami, PhD, welcomed those assembled with congratulations and applause.
Nezami emphasized the abundant hard work students had undertaken to reach commencement day, highlighting that 19 scholarly distinctions as Discovery, Global, and Renaissance Scholars had been earned by the graduates, with one student, Madison Pelton, gaining a $10,000 scholarship for her efforts. Beyond academics, Nezami also thanked the students for the care and compassion that they had shown to one another and the community throughout their time at USC, noting that they would continue to change the world with their commitment to justice, health and wellness.
Before sending the graduates forth, however, Nezami implored them to stay in touch after they left USC, words that preceded her introduction of the ceremony’s speaker, an alumna of the first-ever graduating class of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention program in 1999, Serineh Voskanian Melidonian, MD. Melidonian is an emergency physician at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, where she also serves as the Treasurer and Secretary of the hospital’s Medical Executive Committee.
In her speech, Melidonian shared insights and wisdom about the practice of medicine with the aspiring health professionals in the graduating class, encouraging them to stand by the principles of always following the law, and to do what is in the best interest of the patient. Melidonian talked about the importance of family and community, sharing how excited she was to be returning to speak with members of the Trojan Family who would take her place one day on the front lines of medical care. Reminding the graduates that change was always needed for progress, Melidonian wished the graduates the best of luck on their journeys ahead, telling them they could never be certain where their paths might lead, as she herself completed her residency at Los Angeles County+USC Hospital where she had volunteered while a high school student.
Lilly Hou, the graduate speaker for the day, addressed her fellow graduates reflecting on how much they had learned in four years’ time and how far they would continue to go to reach their dreams. Hou graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and will be attending medical school in the fall.
As their names were read, graduates beamed and raised their hands in victory while crossing the stage. Continuing the emphasis on family, two students received their degrees from their fathers, who are USC faculty. Nezami concluded the day by reminding students that they too could be coming home to USC one day as Melidonian had, and implored the graduates to remain connected to one another and to the patients they would one day treat.
— Ginny DeFrank