This Date in UCSF History: Congratulations Graduates!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Originally published in Synapse on May 25, 2006. Written by Biana Roykh.

Spring means graduation here at UCSF, and all the schools have taken part in this joyous tradition. At top, the School of Medicine’s graduation, held as usual at the Masonic Auditorium, gave family and friends a chance to watch their loved ones accept their diplomas.

During the graduate division’s graduation ceremonies, left, Charlene Harrington received the Outstanding Faculty Mentorship Award from the Graduate Students’ Association.

Biophysics graduate student Michelle Lent presents the award to Dr. Harrington at the graduation ceremony held at Roberston Auditorium in Mission Bay’s Campus Community Center.

Synapse offers congratulations to all UCSF graduates!

Last night I was going to sleep and I thought to myself, tomorrow I will become a doctor. But it really didn’t happen overnight.

It has been an exciting and challenging journey of 79, pretty smart students, who became professionals.

Four years ago, in our White Coat Ceremony, Dean Bertolami said to us: “There will-be a time in the next four years when each one of you will wonder, what am I doing here?”

That was the voice of experience. But he also said that we would have fun together, mature in our abilities and become self-fulfilled healthcare providers.

Today we leave UCSF in comfort, knowing that we have met not just mentors and colleagues, but lifelong friends.

There were many things we learned every year during dental school.

First year we learned just how little sleep we can actually function on. Most of it was sleep lost over teeth waxing nightmares and late night Anatomy reviews.

Our studies ranged from what cells look like under the microscope and what bugs populate our environment to how the human heart beats... it was like a season of Survivor — the Pental Edition.

But many of us also showed the other side — the friendly, fun-loving side. We celebrated many of our exams dancing the worries away at crowded San Francisco hot spots. It was a year of new friendships, new loves.

We returned from our last long summer vacation, tanned and full of new energy to begin our second year.

No longer would we be the new kids on the block, now we were the resident lab rats. We worked diligently with Dr. Dehlinges on our demanding dentures.

We huffed and puffed as we packed those precocious premolars. We carved and casted, we glazed and invested our precious metals into works of art.

Third year we put on our clinic gowns and pretended we knew something. We met new faculty and staff, who trusted in us and guided our first patient care experiences.

I remember doing an exam on a patient and after I presented her with her treatment plan options, she said to me “whatever you recommend, doctor.”

It was an amazing feeling to have someone place trust and confidence in you about their own health.

This was a year of maturing and realizing how important our role is in our community. In our last, but not least, year of dental school, we started clinic with new confidence and independence.

We were less and less nested under the wings of our faculty, and as the year progressed we became peers and friends with our teachers. We went on externships to underserved areas and provided dental care to children and adults of disadvantaged backgrounds.

This was an opportunity to advance our skills and step outside of the protected school environment — we were in the real world now.

With the end in sight, we worked hard to fulfill all of our ever changing requirements, even when we weren’t really sure what they were.

But despite all the challenges of fourth-year, the most difficult one yet has been saying goodbye to our favorite patients, our instructors, our staff and each other.

This is the story of our class’ journey.

I am proud to say that we have a thirst for knowledge that has lead to unprecedented numbers going into specialty programs, general practice residencies and pursuing work opportunities that will further our skills and make us better clinicians.

Our class has handled many changes with stride; changes in our board exam, our curriculum, our record keeping and many others too numerous to list. We are a very diverse and hard working group of people.

We demand perfection from ourselves and others, especially others. But above all, we are dedicated to our cause — compassion for others and enthusiasm for the dental profession.

There is a reason why the color of the sash chosen to represent dentistry is Lilac. Lilac is a “combination of the courage of red and the wisdom of blue.”

We have the courage to take upon ourselves the wellbeing of our patients, and the wisdom to better our profession.

Our dear faculty, today we stand proud before you with deepest gratitude for your patience, your knowledge and your continued encouragement throughout the last four years.

We loved you, we complained to you and sometimes we even disagreed. But in the end, I know we wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Our dear families, you have traveled this road with us with love and support. You have made education an important priority in our lives.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, the son of the mine worker can become the head of the mine, that the child of a farmer can become a president of a great nation.”

Moms and dads, it is because of you that we are receiving this great honor tonight.

Today, we are no longer wondering what we are doing here. Today we are becoming dentists.

Throughout our training, we have learned that dentistry is a demanding field not just physically and emotionally, but it is also a craft that requires extreme meticulousness.

We are accustomed to thinking in millimeters and have been known to spark heated debates over tiny mathematical numbers.

Don’t get caught up in it. Don’t forget how beautiful and expansive the world is — embrace it. Hold on to your enthusiasm. Inspire others... and if all else fails, REFER.

Congratulations my fellow graduates!!!!!