VP&S Celebrates the Class of 2024

The Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Class of 2024 celebrated graduation with friends and families on May 15. The ceremony honored 142 students who received MD degrees from VP&S and 86 students who received PhD degrees in biomedical sciences from Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Columbia Medicine | On May 15, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons celebrated the Class of 2024’s graduation with friends and fa... | Instagram

Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president of the United States from 2021 to 2022, delivered the graduation address. Fauci is former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, where he oversaw research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, Ebola, and COVID-19. He is credited as the principal architect of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science, among many other honors and awards.

Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president of the United States from 2021 to 2022, delivered the graduation address.

In his address, Fauci reflected on the challenges and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, which profoundly impacted the Class of 2024 and changed the landscape of medicine, clinical care, and scientific research. Fauci highlighted the spread of anti-science beliefs, misinformation, and the “normalization of untruths” and stressed the urgent need for health professionals to push back on these trends.

“Seek and listen to opinions that differ from your own, but critically analyze information, which you have learned to do so well here at Columbia, so that you can discern and challenge weak assertions built on untruths,” Fauci said. “As future leaders in medicine and science, we are counting on you for that. Our collective future is in your hands. You and your humanity are the keys to optimal patient care and are integral to the path that you have chosen.”

Amid these serious issues facing new professionals in science and medicine, Fauci also encouraged the graduates to seek and cultivate happiness.

“It is important that you allow yourselves to cultivate joy as much as you do your professional accomplishments,” Fauci said. “Find your sources of joy and embrace them. Many of you will be in serious and important positions starting relatively soon. This is not incompatible with the fact that you have so many other things to live for and to be happy about. Reach for them often and relish the joy.”

The Class of 2024 is the first class to recite at graduation an oath the students created together.

While the COVID-19 pandemic dominated much of the Class of 2024’s medical education, the class graduates now in a tumultuous time of global conflict. Katrina Armstrong, dean of VP&S, encouraged the graduates to reaffirm their commitment to the founding principles of medicine and healing amid this time of unrest.

“While the path ahead for you may not be easy, what you have accomplished these last years has left no doubt that you are up to the challenge,” Armstrong said. “You have demonstrated extraordinary commitment, resilience, compassion, and humility. You have transformed your own knowledge and skills and learned how to come together to support your colleagues and your community. It may be scary to hear, but you now embody our aspirations for our future. You will forever lead us in compassion, in honest reckoning with our failures, our limitations, and our history, and perhaps most importantly in hope—for a better and more equitable world where every child and every person has the opportunity for a long and healthy life.”

Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s three other schools also held graduation ceremonies this week. Meet graduates from VP&S and the School of Nursing.

Graduation and Commencement Awards

Several VP&S faculty members received awards at the VP&S ceremony for service, teaching, research, or humanism:

  • Lisa Mellman, the Samuel Rudin Professor Emerita of Psychiatry: Distinguished Service Award
  • Hilda Hutcherson, professor emerita of obstetrics & gynecology: Distinguished Service Award
  • Kerry Esquitin, associate professor of medicine: Charles W. Bohmfalk Award for Pre-Clinical Years
  • Roman Nowygrod, professor of surgery: Charles W. Bohmfalk Award for Clinical Years
  • Ana Berlin, associate professor of surgery and medicine: Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award
  • Benjamin Izar, assistant professor of medicine and systems biology: Doctor Harold and Golden Lamport Research Award in Basic Sciences
  • Catherine Spina, assistant professor of radiation oncology: Doctor Harold and Golden Lamport Research Award in Clinical Sciences
  • Salila Kurra, associate dean for student career development and associate professor of medicine: Distinguished Teacher Award given by the Class of 2024

Several students and faculty members from across CUIMC were recognized by Columbia University for their contributions:

  • Erika Denour (CDM), Amir Hassan (VP&S), Tyler Nichols (Mailman), and Ian West (Nursing) received Campbell Awards, which recognize exceptional leadership and Columbia spirit 
  • Jeff Goldsmith, associate professor of biostatistics, Mailman School of Public Health, received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching