Clad in their black and gold graduation gowns, the soon-to-be doctors began chanting, “UCF…UCF” as they lined up for the procession. They fist-bumped their dean and high-fived each other. Even Dave Enzfelder, the ceremony’s bagpiper, got into the act, bellowing, “Go Knights! Charge on!”
On Friday, the UCF College of Medicine graduated 117 new doctors – 18 of them UCF undergraduates, the most in med school history. The “double Knights,” as they’ve been called, include a UCF-trained Army nurse who served in Iraq and a musical theater actress who found her medical calling while caring for the poor.
With the Class of 2019, UCF’s medical school has graduated 609 physicians in the last seven years.
Twenty-one of this year’s new doctors are pediatricians – the most ever – including three who will train in the inaugural residency program at Nemours Children’s Hospital.
Jais Emmanuel is one of those pediatricians, and one of the UCF undergrads. She grew up in Lake Nona, earned her bachelor’s from the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, and watched as the College of Medicine came out of the ground. “I remember the college when it was just grass,” she said. “The UCF College of Medicine was in my backyard. It was always my dream to be here.”
The day before graduation, Emmanuel was honored as one of the Class of 2019’s top students — she earned all A’s during four years of medical school. In June she begins residency training at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “I don’t want to sound cliché, but UCF does stand for opportunity,” she said. “Ever since I came here, so many opportunities have opened up for me. I’ve been able to meet mentors and teachers who have helped shape my values and showed me how to be a good doctor. They have definitely helped shape the way I will practice medicine in the future.”
Jeremy Tran, also a “double Knight,” did cancer research as a UCF undergraduate and was selected for the Order of Pegasus – the university’s most prestigious student honor. As a medical student, he helped lead the student-run free KNIGHTS Clinic and earned the Florida Board of Medicine’s Chair’s Recognition Award as a future leader in the medical profession. A self-described “Navy brat,” Tran entered the military’s Health Professions Scholarship program, which covers tuition and living expenses for medical students who agree to serve their country for one year for each year of scholarship. So in addition to graduating Friday, Tran received a military promotion, along with four other medical school military officers. Now he’s off to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, where he will train in orthopedic surgery.
“UCF has been a huge part of my life — I’ve spent about a third of my life here,” he said. “I remember on interview day, sitting around a table, and Dean (Deborah) German talking about her vision for the medical campus and the future of healthcare. I really believed in her vision. So I think my goal for the future, after I’ve fulfilled my military commitment in the Navy, is to come back to UCF as an attending surgeon and to help the dean accomplish her vision.”
The commencement remarks also shared a theme of UCF’s emerging medical legacy.
“The future of medicine is ours,” Class of 2019 president and speaker Andrey Suprun said. “Go forth and make UCF known.”
Faculty speaker Dr. James Sanders told the new doctors to “carry that light” and practice medicine “with humility, empathy, love and kindness.” And Dr. Deborah German, vice president for health affairs and dean, who had fist bumped with several students moments before graduation, reminded the new M.D.s of their promise the first day of medical school to become one of “The Good Doctors – A UCF Tradition.”
“The Good Doctor lives in each of you. Like a seed, it has been planted in you here at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine. And it has sprouted,” she said. “I look forward to seeing how that seed blossoms as you pursue your career and The Good Doctor flourishes within you. Know that you are forever a UCF Physician Knight.”
Arron Smith is one of those UCF Physician Knights. He served in Iraq as an Army nurse and met his future wife, Melissa, there – she was also an Army nurse. They earned their nursing degrees at UCF, worked as nurses and then decided to pursue medical school. Dr. Melissa Smith graduated in the Class of 2018. This year, dressed in full military uniform, she pinned her husband with his new military rank after he received his M.D. diploma. Arron will join his wife in residency training at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington State. “It’s exhilarating for both of us to be part of the UCF legacy,” he said.
UCF undergraduate and now UCF-trained physician Lauren Fragapane grew up in Oviedo and graduated with honors as an undergraduate biomedical sciences major. Friday’s ceremony brought back memories of 2015, when she stood in the same place and met then-President John C. Hitt who presented her an award for high honors. This year, Fragapane was named the Class of 2019’s top student, receiving the Dean’s Award for academic, clinical and professional excellence. She will do her neurology residency at the University of South Florida.
“I want to be a Florida physician,” she said. “I want to practice here. UCF has basically been with me this entire journey.”
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