Columbia Medical Students Graduate, Celebrate Final Day Before Joining NYP Staff

On April 15, 139 Columbia medical students in the Class of 2020 came together virtually for a celebration hosted by the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S). The Zoom event was a lighthearted sendoff as students graduate early to join health care workers at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and provide support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the graduating class, 84 students will join the hospital in roles such as medical scribes and telehealth guides. 

“The challenges you’ve faced here in the last couple of months are unlike any the classes before you have faced,” said Lee Goldman, MD, dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine and chief executive of Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “A number of you have decided to volunteer at NewYork-Presbyterian. It’s heartwarming. And you’ll be joining faculty and staff who have been truly heroic, awe-inspiring. I visited the inpatient units, the ICUs, the EDs, and watched firsthand what they’re doing every day. And it’s truly, truly extraordinary.”

Graduates showed off their creative flair with a musical performance and poetry reading and some shared brief speeches reflecting on their time in medical school and on the current pandemic. 

“For me, it seems like only yesterday that it was January and I was worrying about my relatives and my friends who are far away in Wuhan,” said VP&S graduate Anna Qian. “Little did I know then that our world here would also be very quickly turned on its head. But a very brilliant attending once told me that tough times don’t build character, they reveal character, and this has proven true over the last few unpredictable and nerve-wracking weeks, and in fact over the past four years of ups and downs. I have no doubt that I’m graduating with people who will go on to achieve grand things but, more importantly, I know that I’m graduating with people who have the kind of character to lend a hand, give an ear, give a kind word, and do all those small, everyday things that nobody’s counting but that really count.”

Randy Casals is among the graduates headed to the hospital before starting his residency in urology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine this summer. “Starting our career in the middle of a global pandemic isn’t exactly what we signed up for, but helping people navigate really scary times is what we signed up for,” he told Time Magazine. (Read more about his story in Time Magazine.)

Watch our video of VP&S Class of 2020 highlights: