Virtual, drive-by graduation for emergency medicine residents

Milestone celebrations look different this year as we fight to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean festivities are cancelled altogether. Baylor’s emergency medicine residents and their loved ones gathered via Zoom for a virtual graduation followed by a drive-by parade to commemorate their hard work over the last three years.  Aside from treating some of the sickest, most vulnerable patients in the Houston-area for COVID-19, these frontline trainees began their residency at a tumultuous time: Hurricane Harvey.

“They started with this momentum amid a very challenging transition from being a medical student to a resident during Harvey,” said Dr. Sara Andrabi, assistant residency program director and assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor. “COVID turned into a marathon, and our residents demonstrated the same compassion and grit when treating these patients. It was really humbling and inspiring to see that from a younger generation of physicians, and I can only imagine that they will take that momentum with them moving forward.”

Fourteen physicians and their families connected online to listen to speeches describing this class’ resilience throughout their time as residents. After, a drive-by ceremony took place, where residents were called by name to receive a gift.

Dr. Aleksandr (Sasha) Tichter, residency program director of emergency medicine, opened the ceremony by thanking residents for their resilience:

“The current state of the world has thrust upon our graduates a level of maturity and a level of perspective that would’ve otherwise taken many years to evolve. Our trainees have approached these circumstances with courage, determination and extreme humility in their responsibility and singular focus on what’s best for patients that are taken care of today and in the future.”

Dr. Malford Tyson Pillow, vice chair of education and associate professor of emergency medicine, followed, thanking this class for bridging doctors to their next step as they continue to care for COVID patients.

Andrabi touched on each resident’s strength as they experienced different disasters throughout training.

“You help people in the most vulnerable times of their lives, and sometimes that means missing holidays, birthdays and time with your loved ones. You took an oath to take care of patients,” she said. “Your class takes the cake when it comes to unique experiences. As interns, you experienced hurricane Harvey. Residency wouldn’t be residency without a grand finale while working through a global pandemic. You have thrived through it all. You did it, and you succeeded. Keep pushing yourselves as you approach your next steps.”

Dr. Shane Jenks, assistant professor of emergency medicine, concluded the ceremony, reminding residents of their hard work and urging them to not let anything come in between them and their patients.

The emergency medicine residents have been thrown into all kinds of situations, and will carry these skills through their future endeavors.

In addition to emergency medicine, residents and fellows in other programs celebrated their graduations. Read a recap and see photos below. And, read this AAFP piece by recent family medicine chief resident graduate Dr. Arindam Sarkar in which he reflects on his training upon graduation.

Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

The Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism fellowship held their virtual graduation Saturday June 20. The event honored graduating fellows Dr. Akhil Shenoy, Dr. Betty La, Dr. Mehwish Ismaily, Dr. Sara Bedrose and chief fellow Dr. Bahar Force. Dr. Bryan Jiang, assistant professor of medicine, was awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award from the fellows. Dr. Sara Bedrose was awarded the Glenn Cunningham M.D. award for clinical excellence.

Infectious Diseases

On Thursday, June 11, the Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program celebrated its virtual 2020 graduation. The graduating fellows were Dierdre Axell-House, Denise Francisco, Melanie Goebel, Alison Robins, Amy Spallone, and Teena Xu. Three fellows will be staying on as Baylor faculty, two fellows will be doing additional research training under the NIH T32 program, and one fellow will be doing additional clinical training as a fellow in Oncologic Infectious Diseases at MD Anderson Cancer Center. The Infectious Diseases Faculty of the Year, as voted on by the fellows, was Dr. Jill Weatherhead.


The GI Fellows marked their graduation with an informal, socially-distanced get-together and drive by. Chief Fellow Jordan Sparkman served an especially important role, organizing fellows’ COVID response, in addition to the typical responsibilities of a chief fellow.


Fellows in hematology/oncology celebrated with a dinner at the home of Dr. Martha Mims, with social distancing guidelines in full effect. Others joined via Zoom.


Surgery residents celebrated their graduation with a hybrid ceremony: some department leadership socially distanced in Cullen Auditorium while residents were virtual on Zoom.

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By Homa Shalchi