Commencement day extra special for two med students

Commencement is always special for Baylor College of Medicine students, as they prepare to enter the next phase of their training and careers. But for two students, graduation from medical school also marked the next step in their military careers.

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Tim Soeken and Cecil Roberts, fourth-year medical students at Baylor, were commissioned into the Air Force in a ceremony on the Baylor campus May 26, the same day as their medical school commencement.

Held in the DeBakey Library and Museum, the event was set up in front of Dr. Michael E. DeBakey’s military uniform. Dr. DeBakey was a world renowned vascular surgeon, but his commitment to others was also reflected in his military service during World War II.

Dr. Paul Klotman, Baylor president, CEO and executive dean, made remarks, along with Dr. Alicia Monroe, provost and senior vice president of academic and faculty affairs, and Dr. Jagadeesh Kalavar, chief of staff at the DeBakey VA Medical Center.

Dr. Timothy Porea, Baylor faculty member and Clinical Director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, served as emcee for the event. Porea is a retired U.S. Navy physician and is the advisor for medical students at Baylor College of Medicine who are in the military.

“By virtue of this graduation and commissioning today, Tim and Robbie instantly outrank over a quarter of a million Air Force enlisted personnel and almost 1.2 million enlisted in all branches of the Armed Services. These young men and women will look up to them not just for their medical knowledge but for what they represent as an officer in the military. This is an incredible responsibility,” Porea said.

Porea said that while Roberts and Soeken, and all of their classmates, have many reasons to feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment on commencement day, their decision to serve our country after graduation adds a special sense of accomplishment.

Porea administered the oath commissioning Roberts as a captain in the Air Force, while Soeken’s oath was administered by a close friend. Pins were changed on their uniforms to reflect their new rank — Roberts’ mother changed his rank, and Soeken’s wife and son changed his pin.

Both Roberts and Soeken will conduct their residencies through the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium Program in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in psychiatry and ophthalmology, respectively.