College of Medicine Celebrates Class of 2022

By Linda Satter

The crowd that filled most of the expansive space marked a welcome return to normalcy for students and faculty who spent the last two years largely separated from each other and public events by pandemic restrictions. Those restrictions required the previous two convocations to be held virtually.

“We are so happy to gather in person,” James Graham, M.D., vice dean of academic affairs in the college, said in his welcome address. “Having watched this class overcome the challenges of the pandemic, we gather tonight with real hope and confidence for the future.”

Members of the Class of 2022 listen to Rhee.

Members of the Class of 2022 listen to Rhee.JohnPaul Jones

A ceremony preceding the draping of each budding physician with a doctoral hood — trimmed in red and white to represent the University of Arkansas and green to represent the color of the College of Medicine — included the presentation of numerous awards for graduating class members and, in turn, several student-selected awards for influential educators.

The ceremony also featured solemn advice and heartfelt encouragement from UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, and CEO of UAMS Health; College of Medicine Dean Susan Smyth, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice chancellor; and Sung Rhee, Ph.D., of the UAMS Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, who was selected by the class to give their final teaching charge.

Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, addresses the graduates

Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, addresses the graduatesJohnPaul Jones

“We’re excited to see what contributions you’re going to take on in the future as you take on your role of delivering health care,” Patterson told the graduates as they prepared to walk onto the stage to have a hood draped over their heads and later take the Hippocratic Oath, led by Smyth. Patterson would confer their medical degrees in a ceremony the following afternoon at Simmons Bank Arena.

“You’re entering health care at an exciting time,” Patterson said, citing the rapid expansion of digital health care and other innovations. “These tools will transform the way we deliver health care. You’ll see the arc of medicine change over your careers as I have seen in my career.”

Smyth advised the graduates that their impact as physicians would come from combining the “art” of medicine — listening to and caring for their patients — with the “science” of medicine — the use of evidence-based knowledge and contemporary technical skills — in their practice. She reminded the audience that physicians were trusted professionals because they combined their knowledge and technical skills with teamwork and a dedication to outstanding patient care.

College of Medicine Dean Susan Smyth, M.D., tells a personal story.

College of Medicine Dean Susan Smyth, M.D., tells a personal story.JohnPaul Jones

Sharing her own experiences to illustrate her point, Smyth emphasized that the graduates “will play major roles in some of the most important stories of people’s lives.”

“And that is why ours is the most rewarding of professions,” she said.

Each year the senior class elects one of their educators to give the Faculty Charge — final words of wisdom to send them off. This year, they chose Rhee, who congratulated them for their “incredible achievement” of persevering through an unprecedented global pandemic to earn their medical degrees.

Rhee encouraged the new physicians to never forget “that I can’t care for others unless I care for myself first.”

Sung Rhee, Ph.D., was chosen by the class to present the faculty charge.

Sung Rhee, Ph.D., was chosen by the class to present the faculty charge.JohnPaul Jones

“We know medical students are pretty busy,” he said. “I hear doctors are pretty busy too. So first and foremost, please take care of yourselves and each other. Then we can think about caring for others and balancing life.”

“As doctors, you may not get to spend a lot of time with each of your patients, unfortunately. However, you have a great power to make a profound impact even in those short moments,” he added.

Paula McClain, president of the Class of 2022, who is about to enter a radiation oncology residency at UAMS, encouraged her classmates “to use your head, your hands and your heart to change our world.”