By Wendy Sarubbi | May 8, 2023 1:46 pm

As a soon-to-be UCF Physician Knight, Sarah Baker is “going home to Naples to provide primary care to my patients and to be their advocate.” Her journey to medical school wasn’t typical. She’s a mom of three who joined the College of Medicine at age 41 after years working to improve public health in Lee County. Now the family is returning to Southwest Florida, where Baker will do her internal medicine residency at NCH Healthcare System.

Medical student Sarah Baker (left) celebrates with classmate Robert Toledo at Class Day 2023.

On May 5, Baker gathered with her Class of 2023 M.D. classmates one last time before their May 19 graduation to celebrate their medical school journey. They gathered for brunch on the College of Medicine’s Tavistock Green, sharing memories of what brought them to UCF and their dreams for the future.

 Dr. Deborah German, vice president for health affairs and medical school dean, applauded the 123 graduates for their determination and spirit. “You learned medicine during a global pandemic,” she said. “You found a way to meet all of those challenges to be here today.”

As part of the celebration, the class gave back to future students. Class President Brandon Tapasak announced that the Class of 2023 would donate money to pay for white coats for next year’s first-year class.

Service to others was a theme of the celebration as students received awards for their performance with patients in third-year clerkships, community service, academic excellence, and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

John Wilhelm won multiple awards but said the most special was the Student Choice Award, selected by students for the classmate they would most want treating a family member. “I am flattered and  humbled,” he said, “because I have so many fellow students in this class that I have an insane amount of respect for.”

Wilhelm will go to the University of New Mexico for his residency training in psychiatry, one of 12 students in this year’s class who are entering the field of mental health care. This year’s class also will go into specialties that include internal, family and emergency medicine, surgery, OB-GYN, urology and anesthesiology.  

“This is the moment that we have all been working towards,” Dr. Marcy Verduin, associate dean of students, told the celebrants. “Your graduation represents your transformation from novice learners into young physicians who we eagerly welcome as our colleagues.  As you graduate and  begin your residencies, you stand on the threshold of a new beginning.  The future is bright, and I can’t wait to see all that it holds for you.”

Class Day 2023 Awards

Dean’s Award: Carla Gonzalez

Hippocratic Oath Award: Dr. Marcy Verduin

Outstanding Senior in Internal Medicine:  Jacob Riegler

Outstanding Senior in Family Medicine: Maria Jamaleddine

Outstanding Senior in Neurology: Rebecca Zelmanovich

Outstanding Senior in Obstetrics and Gynecology: Caridad Infante

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists District XII Award: Caridad Infante, Oriana Krivenko

Outstanding Senior in Pediatrics: Helena Quach

Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Award: Brianna Leone

Outstanding Senior in Psychiatry: John Wilhelm

Outstanding Senior in Surgery: Katelyn Lewis

Academic Excellence Award: Jeremy Adamson, Shaye Busse, Andrew Collins, John Driggers, Carla Gonzalez, Tanner Harding, Katelyn Lewis, Rachel Nyenhuis, Daniel Stirt, John Wilhelm, Rebecca Zelmanovich

United States Public Health Service Excellence in Public Health:  Oriana Krivenko

Faculty Choice: Leonie Dupuis

Student Choice: John Wilhelm

Osler Award: Aamir Momin

Service and Humanity in Medicine: Brandon Tapasak

Distinguished Community Service: Lake Lindo

Excellence in Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in Medicine:  Melodie Noel

To see all photos from Class Day, please visit

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