UMMC Celebrates 900+ 2023 Graduates Across Six Health Sciences Schools

By Ruth Cummins

UMMC Communications

Of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Class of 2023, 740 of the 911 graduates took part in commencement ceremonies at the Mississippi Coliseum. Joe Ellis and Melanie Thortis/ UMMC Communications

 In its 67th annual Commencement, the University of Mississippi Medical Center on Friday conferred degrees to hundreds of students who are beginning their careers in the health sciences, or entering into a new chapter of an existing one in this state and beyond.

The graduates of the schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, Population Health and Health Related Professions are leaving campus with the aim of improving health and quality of life. Of this year’s graduating class of 911 students, more than 740 walked across the stage in cap and gown to receive their diplomas in person.

“Graduates, there are four things I want you to take with you,” Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, told graduates.

“Today is just a day.  It’s a big day, and one you have worked toward for a long time,” she said. “As you go forward, you will continue to learn from one another, from other health care professionals, AND you will learn from the greatest teachers of all – the patients.  Never lose sight of what a privilege that is. 

“You will make choices every day that will impact others in a significant way,” Woodward said. “Along the way, at some point in time, someone made a positive impression on you.  You are now in that position to have a positive impact on others. Deal with others and those you serve with a deep respect.

“Our nation will continue to struggle with ways to care for the sick. I challenge every one of you to be a part of the solution to this struggle. We need you and your talents here in this state.

“You will never practice any profession well if you don’t have a good time doing it,” Woodward said. “The work before you is hard. It is important. It is heavy. And, it is rewarding and it is worth doing. Remember the excitement, the spirit and the passion you have today, and keep it with you.”

University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn Boyce addresses students and their families during commencement exercises.

Dr. Glenn Boyce, chancellor of the University of Mississippi, told graduates that he’s confident they are well prepared for their next steps of training or for launching their careers as a health care provider or researcher.

“We’re especially grateful to celebrate this class that demonstrated perseverance and resilience in the face of tremendous disruption in their personal lives and in their education during one of the most challenging periods in our nation’s history,” Boyce said. “You’ve reached this pinnacle and fulfilled your educational goals through hard work, grit, and determination.

“And, I know you’ve done so with the steadfast support, and many times sacrifice, of your loved ones,” he said. “It is my honor to join you here today as we mark the culmination of years of study, sacrifice and diligent preparation, and the fulfillment of many lifelong dreams.”

Among the new graduates is La’Quita Minor of Rolling Fork. She received her bachelor’s in health informatics and information management from the School of Health Related Professions and recently earned her certification as a registered health information administrator.

Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine Dr. LouAnn Woodward addresses graduates during commencement ceremonies.

A beloved family member was missing from Minor’s cheering section Friday. Minor and her immediate family rode out the March 24 tornado that devastated their tiny Delta community. Their mobile home was left damaged but functional. The mobile home of Minor’s aunt, Delores Harris, was destroyed. Harris lost her life.

“It’s been tough on my family,” said Minor, who earned her degree online as the pandemic raged.

A combination of discipline and structure kept her focused as she studied for her third degree. She earlier earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Jackson State University and an associate of arts in general studies from Hinds Community College.

“I really like the business side of health care,” Minor said. “I originally thought of going into nursing, but I like the behind-the-scenes part of health care. It aligns more with my personality, and it has so many things wrapped into one: health, law, management and administration, coding, revenue cycle.”

Total degrees conferred include:

  • School of Medicine, 163 graduates receiving the Doctor of Medicine degree.
  • School of Dentistry, 38 graduates receiving the Doctor of Dental Medicine degree and 19 graduates receiving the Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene.
  • School of Nursing, 416 graduates receiving either the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing, or Doctor of Nursing Practice.
  • School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, 92 graduates receiving either the Doctor of Philosophy or the Master of Science.
  • School of Health Related Professions, 166 graduates receiving either the Doctor of Physical Therapy, Doctor of Occupational Therapy, or Doctor of Health Administration; Master of Occupational Therapy, Health Sciences, Health Informatics and Information Management, Magnetic Resonance Imaging or Nuclear Medicine Technology; or Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences, Medical Laboratory Science, Health Sciences, or Health Informatics and Information Management.
  • School of Population Health, 16 graduates receiving either the Master of Science in Biostatistics and Data Science, Population Health Science or Population Health Management.
  • Doctor of Medicine/Doctor of Philosophy, 1.

The University of Mississippi in Oxford and UMMC together enrolled 22,951 students this school year, 3,082 at the Medical Center, and 19,869 at UM’s main and regional campuses.

Among those receiving accolades was Dr. Barbara Alexander, professor of physiology and biophysics. She is the winner of the 2023 Regions TEACH Prize, given to the person who most represents the highest qualities of the Medical Center’s academic faculty.

The seven students who received top honors are:

  • John Dumas, Waller S. Leathers Award for the medical student with the highest academic average for four years;
  • Andrew Burnham, Wallace V. Mann Jr. Award for the dental student with the highest academic average for four years;
  • Yan Gao, John D. Bower Award to recognize exceptional potential in the field of population health.
  • Tanzi McAllister, Christine L. Oglevee Memorial Award for the outstanding School of Nursing baccalaureate graduate;
  • Sarah Elisabeth Vaughan, Richard N. Graves Award for the registered nurse senior deemed most outstanding by the faculty in clinical and overall performance;
  • Taylor Johnson, Dr. Virginia Stansel Tolbert award for the student with the highest academic average in the School of Health Related Professions.
  • Jacob Pruett, Robert A. Mahaffey Jr. Memorial Award to recognize exceptional research potential of young investigators.

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