May 17, 2007
Contact: Kaylyn Kendall Dines
Phone: (973) 972-3000
Dr. Atul Gawande, Noted Surgeon, Author, to Deliver Commencement Address to UMDNJ's Largest Class on May 22 in Holmdel
HOLMDE — The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey will graduate the largest class in the school's history during the 37th Annual Commencement Ceremony at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 22, at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey.
Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon and noted author of Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, will deliver a keynote address to approximately 1,480 graduating health professionals along with their families and friends. Prior to the address, Dr. Bruce C. Vladeck, interim president of UMDNJ, will confer an honorary degree to Dr. Gawande who is an assistant professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School/Brigham & Women's Hospital. Dr. Gawande, a Rhodes Scholar, is a staff writer for the New Yorker and he authors the "Notes of a Surgeon" column for the New England Journal of Medicine.
Following his keynote address, the conferral of degrees, diplomas and certificates will take place by the deans of each of UMDNJ's eight schools. Below is a description of a several non-traditional and interesting graduates from New Jersey and New York. Members of the media interested in covering commencement, or interviewing the graduates listed below should contact Kaylyn Kendall Dines at 973-972-5000.
As a dental student, Jennifer Cully, 26, had an opportunity to meet with legislators while lobbying for federal funding and access to care for medically underserved populations. While in dental school she was a school delegate with the American Student Dental Association, which is part of the American Dental Association. Last year she was accepted into an Indian Health Services externship which allowed her to spend one week at a reservation in North Dakota. During that time, she was able to care for patients under the guidance of faculty members from the UMDNJ-New Jersey Dental School. When she receives her Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree from the UMDNJ-New Jersey Dental School this Mount Laurel resident will become the first dentist in her family.
Prior to dental school she was a member of the varsity lacrosse team who received a four-year scholarship to The College of William and Mary in Virginia. As an undergraduate student majoring in biology Jennifer explored her interest in dentistry. By shadowing and working for a general dentist near college, her decision to enter the dental profession was confirmed. Following commencement, Dr. Cully will begin a two-year pediatric residency at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and she hopes to establish a private practice some day. This avid sports enthusiast, athlete and soccer coach understands the importance of teaching. She has mentored many of her fellow dental students and she is aware of the national shortage of educators in her field. So, she also plans to dedicate part of her career to becoming a dental school faculty member.
For an undergraduate student who didn't think he was "smart enough to become a doctor," Gilbert Siu, 29, of Voorhees, has achieved a level of academic success that many would envy. After being encouraged by a college professor, Dr. Siu ended up earning undergraduate degrees in both biochemistry and biology, an achievement that portended his academic experience at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine. During his second year in the medical school, he applied for and was accepted into the school's D.O./Ph.D. dual degree program, devoting three additional years to biomedical research involving cancer and Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Siu proved to be a prolific researcher, co-authoring two published research papers and serving as the lead author on a book chapter for a scholarly text on Alzheimer's. One of the papers, published this year, identified a possible source of Alzheimer's disease and a new approach to possible therapies for the disease. He continued his biomedical research throughout the final two years of medical school and he currently has three additional research papers awaiting publication. This year, he was also selected the D.O. Student of the Year at UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine. After graduating with his dual degree, Dr. Siu will enter a residency program in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Temple University Hospital.
Former flight instructor and charter pilot Stephen Miles, 29, will move from East Orange, N.J., to Washington, D.C. to pursue his new career in nursing. When he graduates from the UMDNJ-School of Nursing with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, Mr. Miles will seek employment at a hospital in the Washington, D.C. area. Although aviation is his passion and he loved being a pilot, he changed careers because he felt his flight schedule and aviation profession was not conducive to being married. Born in London, Mr. Miles also lived in Guyana and Venezuela before earning his undergraduate degree in biology from Cornell University. While attending the UMDNJ-School of Nursing he served as a Student Ambassador who often tutored his peers. His wife is a nurse and he looks forward to starting his career which he said, will allow him to be on the frontlines of patient care .
When Newark residents Tony Tarchichi, 27, and Megan Keane, 25, entered medical school four years ago, they both gave their friends and classmates the same advice: Do not date anyone in medical school. However, they didn't practice what they preached and the duo started dating while attending the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. One month ago, the couple was married. Dr. Tarchichi, a first-generation Lebanese American, said to himself four years ago, "If I date anyone, I think it's going to be her," referring to his future wife, Dr. Keane. Following commencement, they will begin residency programs at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. He will pursue an internal medicine and pediatrics residency and she will enter an obstetrics and gynecology residency. This married couple made time to volunteer in the student-run family health center on campus, they tutored other students, and he was a member of the medical school's Student Affairs Committee. Dr. Tarchichi was the first student from New Jersey to serve on the Council of Student members for the American College of Physicians, which includes: New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
About three years ago, Andriy Markov left his family in the Ukraine to move to the United States to pursue a career in clinical laboratory sciences. This honors student who maintained a 21-credit course load in the spring and fall, worked full-time pumping gas and serving others in restaurants to earn a living. He has no family in this country and his has had little time for anything beyond working and studying for two undergraduate degrees simultaneously. During commencement, this 26-year old Jersey City resident will receive a Bachelors of Science (B.S.) degree in Clinical Laboratory Sciences from the UMDNJ-School of Health Related Professions. His academic achievement from the Cytotechnology Program at the UMDNJ-School of Health Related Professions will be the second undergraduate degree that he has received since moving to New Jersey. Last year, he earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Biology from St. Peter's College in Jersey City. Although he was financially unable to complete his dental education in the Ukraine, he now looks forward to obtaining a career as a hospital administrator. Mr. Markov will pursue a graduate degree in public health and business administration.
Another graduate turned in a law enforcement badge and resigned from a career as a special agent to serve the public as a dentist. Hudson County resident Jeffrey Stewart was a federal agent who also served as a special agent on a FBI task force before he applied to the UMDNJ-New Jersey Dental School. His interest in dentistry began in an orthodontist's office. As a sixth grader, he made many visits to his orthodontist and when his braces were taken off he marveled at the straightness of his teeth. Although this 36-year old initially majored in biology at Drew University, he decided to apply and enter the law enforcement academy. He worked as an agent five years before entering New Jersey City University to complete his science pre-requisites. He also earned a Masters in Public Administration (MPH) degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. After receiving his Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree, this 36-year old will begin a residency in Endodontics. Ultimately, Dr. Stewart dreams of establishing a private practice. He is married to an attorney and they have two children.
As a teenager, Hoboken resident Amy Tanchyk cleaned her father’s general dental office in South Amboy. She remembers watching her father, Dr. Andrew Tanchyk, as he provided various preventive oral health care services including filling cavities and extracting teeth. After graduating from high school, she earned an undergraduate degree from Rutgers University in New Brunswick where she minored in biology and majored in psychology. This was her first step towards following in her father’s professional footsteps. However, since she also wanted a medical degree, she pursued and was accepted into a six-year joint dental and medical school program. At age 25, after she receives a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree from the UMDNJ-New Jersey Dental School, she will begin a one-year Oral Maxillofacial Surgery Residency Program at the dental clinic in the UMDNJ-University Hospital. Then, within two years, she will complete her didactic and clinical requirements for her Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. Upon completion of her dental and medical education, she would like to work in with her father in his private practice. This future dentist and physician would also like to treat patients in a hospital setting.
For Corynna Hines, of East Windsor, the last full week of August 2005 was an especially busy time. After spending a lot of time searching in an unfamiliar part of the country, she had finally found an apartment in River Ridge, Louisiana, that would be convenient to Tulane University where she was about to enroll in a dual degree program in social work and public health. At her cousin’s home in Baton Rouge she was making final preparations for that move when, on August 29, Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Left with no apartment and no school to attend, Corynna made her way back to her New Jersey home and began looking for an alternative, even though classes had already begun at nearly every other school in the country. She was accepted into the UMDNJ-School of Public Health, which joined the large cooperative effort by the Association of Schools of Public Health to provide an opportunity for students who were displaced by Katrina to continue their studies. Corynna found that the professors at UMDNJ and at Rutgers University where she also enrolled were “wonderful” and went out of their way to make sure she was able to catch up after her late enrollment. Although Corynna had an option to return to Tulane in 2006, she decided to remain at UMDNJ, where she has earned a Masters degree in Public Health with a concentration in Health Education and Behavioral Science.
At age 42, William Sproule, of Princeton, will achieve his dream of becoming a physician when he graduates from the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. This husband and father of two left his career as an electrical engineer to pursue a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. While in medical school, he commuted from Princeton to Newark and he will soon begin an Emergency Medicine residency program at Morristown Memorial Hospital. He takes pride in being a member of the Class of 2007 at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School and his children sense it. Dr. Sproule said his wife, his inquisitive 14-year old son and 10 year-old daughter often have conversations during dinner that focus on medical school and health care. Dr. Sproule is the first physician in his family.
Hilda Aluko is a full-time student who recalls her childhood in Nigeria and her strong desire to become a nurse who could treat and educate patients. During commencement, this Edison resident will officially achieve that dream which gives her an opportunity to transition from a full-time student into her career. At age 28, Ms. Aluko has been in the United States for three years and she has earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from the UMDNJ-School of Nursing. Ms. Aluko, a wife and mother of a 2-year old son, plans to pursue a graduate degree that will prepare her for a career as a family nurse practitioner. She is a member of Sigma Theta Tau, the national nursing honors society, and a Student Ambassador at the UMDNJ-School of Nursing. Previously, Ms. Aluko earned an undergraduate degree in biology when she graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Lagos in Nigeria. She came to this country with a dream of providing holistic care to patients. She is not concerned only with a patient’s medical diagnosis, she also considers how each patient's emotional, physical, and spiritual status is related to their wellness. She plans to stay in New Jersey at a hospital setting. In the future, she will visit her homeland to educate men, women and children about HIV and women's health issues.
Originally from Jamaica, 36-year old Sophia Francis lived with her aunt during her first year at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. During her second year in medical school she spent each week in New Jersey taking classes and studying. On weekends she returned to Queens, New York to be with her husband and two sons. During her medical education, she worked 60-hour weeks as a supervisor for a home care facility. Dr. Francis looks forward to beginning a residency program in psychiatry at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New York.
The path Rhonda Johnson, of New York City, followed on her way to a Master in Public Health degree with a concentration in Health Education and Behavioral Science from the UMDNJ-School of Public Health led her to frozen shores of Alaska, through the Panama Canal, up the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains, and down the Champ-Elysees in Paris. After earning undergraduate degrees in Business Management and Communication Studies in her native Minnesota, Rhonda spent a year working in consumer research before taking time to explore her dual interests in travel and public health. She landed a job on Norwegian Cruise Lines, where she was responsible for fitness and wellness programs on cruise ships. Returning to land-based work, she continued working in health and fitness, first with Princeton University for four years and also for Trek Bikes, where she led bike tours that followed sections of each leg of the Tour de France cycling championship. With such an adventurous background, it’s not surprising that Rhonda’s studies led her to one of the world’s most exciting cities.
While a student, Rhonda was accepted into a competitive internship program in community relations with the New York City Health Department, the country’s largest city-based department of health. Her success there paved the way to the next step in her career. Since January, Rhonda has served as the training director of the department’s Physical Activity and Nutrition Programs where she manages a city-wide program that provides training for pre-kindergarten staff and community organizations. The goal of the training is to increase physical activity, improve nutrition programs and reduce obesity rates in children.
The first time Raquel Murphy, 34, of Queens, New York, saw a handball match, she saw more than two people lunging across an asphalt court in pursuit of a small rubber ball ricocheting off a brick wall. She saw "an analogy for life and a struggle to overcome obstacles." She didn't know it then, but that experience ultimately inspired her to compete on the world stage and to enroll at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine. The lessons the former registered dietician learned on the handball court taught to compete and persevere, even when the odds seemed long. When she wasn't accepted into medical school on her first try, Dr. Murphy enrolled in additional science courses at an undergraduate college. She also continued to play handball and, shortly after enrolling at UMDNJ, took a short break to compete in the World Handball Championship in Ireland, where she finished in the top tier of both singles and doubles. The drive to succeed extended to her academic career, too. While at UMDNJ, Dr. Murphy was instrumental in reviving the school's chapter of the National Boricua Latino Health Organization (NBLHO), which was recently named the NBLHO "Chapter of the Year" by this national organization. She was also selected the chairperson of the NBLHO Northeast Region, an area that includes chapters from 22 medical schools. Following graduation, Dr. Murphy will begin a family medicine residency program at Christ Hospital in Jersey City.
Several years ago, journalist and talk show host Geraldo Rivera adopted an eighth-grade class from the Rafael Cordero Middle School in East Harlem as part of New York City’s “Adopt a Class” program for troubled or inner city schools. Instead of mentoring the class of 28 students, Rivera offered to pay for their college education. Only a fraction of the class graduated high school with only a few of them completing college. He took a special interest in one of the youth and kept track of her academic progress and professional dreams. He provided an educational grant for her undergraduate, nursing school and medical school education. Now within one week that student, Brenda Natal, is about to graduate from the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. Geraldo will be a special guest at a convocation ceremony for graduates of the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. As an expression of appreciation for Geraldo ’s generosity and a symbol of her dedication to the middle school, Dr. Natal and her husband have established a $2,000 scholarship that will be named after Geraldo Rivera.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,700 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and a school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a statewide mental health and addiction services network.