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School of Medicine Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Medical Center
School of Medicine: Message From the Dean

Goodbyes are Bittersweet

Enrique Gerszten, M.D.

Graduation Speaker Enrique Gerszten, M.D., it has been said, perhaps more than any other faculty member, helps students to understand and appreciate the honor and responsibility of being a physician.

At this time of year, we’re accustomed to saying goodbye to the students who have trained with us for the past four years. It’s bittersweet, as we salute their accomplishments and share a few parting words of advice. On Friday, that responsibility will fall in part to Enrique Gerszten, M.D., who will serve as the medical school’s convocation speaker.

This year Dr. Gerszten, too, is marking a milestone, as he transitions from full-time responsibilities to the role of Professor Emeritus.

We all—myself included—remember our first interaction with him. For some, the relationship began at their admissions interview when they discover they’ve drawn Dr. Gerszten. Others met him for the first time during the second-year Pathogenesis course that he has directed for more than three decades. In his address to the Class of 2009, he’ll be speaking to an audience he knows well.

The Class of 2009 and I joined the MCV Campus at about the same time. Their White Coat Ceremony was one of my first responsibilities after being appointed as Dean. In the time since, I have enjoyed getting to know and admire this remarkable class, whose members include:

Kyle Eliason

Kyle Eliason

Kyle Eliason is headed to the University of Iowa for his internal medicine residency.

Kyle Eliason, who says he learned what medicine was all about before he even arrived on campus. It was December 1, 2004, when he underwent a living donor liver transplant, donating 55 percent of his liver to his brother and best friend, Eric. Kyle’s four-year Aesculapian Scholarship was made possible by the medical school’s Annual Fund; now he’s headed to the University of Iowa for his internal medicine residency.

Jemilat Badamas

Jemilat Badamas

Jemilat Badamas will train in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins-Bayview.

Growing up in Ibadan, Nigeria, Jemilat Badamas, always knew she was bound to study in America. At 18, she moved to the U.S. to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor, first as an undergraduate in Baltimore and then here at our School of Medicine. Her four years have been distinguished by her coursework—in her third-year she was inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society—as well as for her commitment to the community. Volunteering at Richmond homeless and remote-area clinics and mentoring high-school students interested in medical careers are just some of the things she has made time to do.

David Buxton

David Buxton

David Buxton at the medical school’s Aloha-themed Match Day celebration.

David Buxton, too, has always believed in the value of volunteer service. That dedication led to his being named as the first recipient of the Harry and Zackia Shaia Scholarship that offers four-year support to a student with a demonstrated commitment to the community.

Next year, he will have responsibilities over and above those that come with his Brown University psychiatry residency. David has been selected by the Journal of the American Medical Association as one of 12 students who will serve as next year’s editors of “Virtual Mentor.” The online publication encourages medical students to discuss bioethics topics, and David has already claimed a theme for his issue: pediatric palliative care. It’s a topic that reflects David’s plans for his own career. He has regularly spent time shadowing Dr. Bob Archuletta, a local physician who was among the first to become board-certified in pediatric palliative care. And David, in fact, already has a publication credit in the field: his account of grappling emotionally and spiritually with a patient’s death appeared in the Journal of Palliative Medicine last year.

Branden Engorn

Branden Engorn

Branden Engorn was singled out by the pediatrics department for the Elizabeth Joanne Harbison Memorial Award. He will train in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The list of Branden Engorn’s service to his class and to his school is a long one that includes his presidency of the Medical Student Government Association, Admissions Committee member and third-year clerkship group leader. His commitment to leadership extends outside of the medical campus through community service and even lobbying city and state officials on health concerns of not only medical students but the community in general. On top of all this, Branden ranks in the top of his class.

His four-year record of remarkable accomplishments was recently recognized by the Joseph Collins Foundation. Established by the late Dr. Collins to assist “ambitious and determined” students in their study of medicine, the foundation selected just four students in the nation for its Beverly Chaney Award that carries a cash prize of $10,000.

These are four of our 174 students who will earn their medical degree this month, each with a unique success story. Together they created a phenomenal class, who have made us proud, and project a bright future for American medicine.

Goodbyes are bittersweet.