By Wendy Sarubbi | May 9, 2022 4:28 pm

They’d trained during a global pandemic and led clinics that helped the community’s most needy – farmworkers, the homeless and uninsured. And as they gathered one last time May 6 before commencement, the Class of 2022 – the medical school’s 10th graduating class – gave a gift they hope will remind others the importance of perseverance and compassion.

Class of 2022 Student Council officers Michael Fiorino (center), Margaret Kennedy (left) and Ricci Allen (right) announce the senior gift.

Class President Michael Fiorino, who will do his residency training in neurological surgery at St. Louis University School of Medicine, announced at Class Day that seniors had purchased 10 white coats for the Class of 2026, who matriculate in July. He said each coat pocket will hold a note of inspiration from the Class of 2022.

“We hope the white coats will help further the message of showing grace in the face of challenges, a spirit of gratitude in the face of sacrifice, and the importance of supporting each other as a class,” he said.

This year’s M.D. graduation is May 20 at Addition Financial Arena. Class Day is designed to give seniors one last celebration with each other before they get their degrees and head into three to seven years of residency training depending on their specialty. This year’s graduates will train at top hospitals across the state and nation – including Georgetown, Harvard, John Hopkins, Orlando Health and Stanford. A record 16 graduates are going to residency training at UCF-HCA Healthcare programs across the state.

Before Class Day festivities began on the College of Medicine’s Tavistock Green, founding medical school Dean Dr. Deborah German met with the seniors to talk about her own lessons from residency. As she welcomed them to the Class Day luncheon moments later, she talked about building a medical school from scratch – before there was even an exit off State Road 417 in Lake Nona’s Medical City. “I have dreamed of this class for a very long time,” she said. “Remember, this is your medical school. You will always be a UCF Knight.”

Class Day also includes awards for outstanding seniors. Many of the winners said they were drawn to UCF’s young medical school because of its culture – the idea that faculty and staff supported students and urged them to follow their dreams, the fact that UCF’s culture wasn’t cut-throat but instead taught collaboration, partnership and putting the needs of others before the needs of self. Several said a new, innovative medical school helping to create an emerging Medical City gave them unprecedented opportunities for leadership, scholarship and research.

“The culture at UCF was unmatched,” said Katie Ballantyne, who received multiple academic awards and will go to Boston’s Children’s Hospital for pediatric training after commencement. “I was able to flourish because of the support and connection I had here.”

Spencer Lessans received the award for outstanding senior in internal and family medicine. He’s going to Vanderbilt for an internal medicine residency and hopes to return to the College of Medicine as a physician faculty member one day. He’s a double Knight. He earned a degree in biomedical sciences from UCF and was part of the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences’ Medical Scholars Program. He’s going into internal medicine because he says he wants to be part of patients’ lives, to focus on the whole person, not just their disease. “I came to this College of Medicine because I wanted to stay part of the UCF family,” he said.

Class Day awardees included one faculty member. Dr. Marcy Verduin, associate dean of students and professor of psychiatry, who was selected by students for the Hippocratic Oath Award. It’s given to the faculty member who best embodies the ideals of Hippocrates in compassionate patient care, the highest ethical standards, and dedication to teaching excellence. That honoree leads students in reciting the Hippocratic Oath at commencement. 

Dr. Verduin told students she had been spending time this spring reflecting on their four-year journey together. “I’ve watched you gracefully navigate unbelievable challenges throughout the COVID pandemic,” she said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the work you have done to leave a legacy as the Class of 2022.  This is the moment that we have all been working towards – your graduation represents your transformation from novice learners into young physicians who we eagerly welcome as our colleagues.”    

Class Day 2022 Award Recipients (for photos visit

  • Dean’s Award — Grace Johnson and Patrick Kroenung
  • Outstanding Senior in Internal/Family Medicine – Spencer Lessans
  • Outstanding Senior in NeurologyMelissa Riess
  • Outstanding Senior in Obstetrics and GynecologyKevin Petersen
  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists District XII Award —  Katie Porter and Kevin Petersen.
  • Outstanding Senior in PediatricsKatie Ballantyne
  • Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Award —  Katie Ballantyne.
  • Outstanding Senior in PsychiatryIrina Tardif
  • Outstanding Senior in SurgeryMargaret Kennedy
  • COM Academic Excellence Award — COM Academic Excellence Award — Katie Ballantyne, Evan Chen, John D’Angelo, Lindsey Fragale, Emma Hignett, Grace Johnson, Rebecca Joseph, Margaret Kennedy, Patrick Kroenung, Friederike Luetzenberg, Michael Orlando, Bradley Richey, Michele Ryan, Irina Tardif, Clayton Welsh
  • Merck Manual Award — Lindsey Fragale, Margaret Kennedy, Friederike Luetzenberg
  • Faculty Choice Award — Vincent Cendan
  • Student Choice Award — Katie Ballantyne
  • Osler Award — Andrew Pollizzi
  • Service and Humanity In Medicine Award — Michael Fiorino
  • Distinguished Community Service Award — Katie Porter
  • Excellence in Promoting Diversity, Inclusion in Medicine Award – Ricci Allen
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