Marking milestones in the midst of a pandemic: College of Medicine celebrates student achievements virtually
Lou Levine will never forget the day he found out where he’d continue his training to become a doctor.
The fourth-year medical student at Penn State College of Medicine found out that he was going to be doing his internal medicine residency training at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut. Not only will he return to his home state, but he’ll be walking the halls of a hospital that counted his grandfather among their first heart transplant patients.
To Levine, it will be an honor to train at the hospital that gave him the opportunity to know his grandfather, who lived another 20 years after having the procedure done. He celebrated the news that he’d matched into his number one choice of program with his parents, brother and 87-year-old grandmother.
The only thing missing was 138 other medical students, their friends and families, and faculty and leadership from the College of Medicine.
In early March, COVID-19 spread across the United States and with it came new social distancing guidelines. Large gatherings, like the College of Medicine’s Match Day, where fourth-year medical students find out where they will do their residency training, were cancelled out of concern for the safety of those attending.
For Levine, president of the medical student class of 2020, that meant almost four months of event planning were no longer relevant. But thanks to the work of students, faculty and staff at the College of Medicine, students were able to celebrate with friends and family virtually.
“Students were able to share their matches with each other and their families and friends far away through Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms,” said Dr. Emmanuelle Williams, associate dean for student affairs. “We even had a webpage constructed where faculty, students, friends and family could share match results and offer congratulatory messages.”
As an infectious disease specialist, Dr. Leslie Parent, vice dean for research and graduate studies and co-director of the MD/PhD program at the College of Medicine, understands why Match Day had to become a virtual event. Yet, as the mother of a fourth-year medical student at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga., she admitted the moment was a bit bittersweet.
“Our family and was looking forward to traveling to Atlanta to celebrate this milestone with my daughter and her friends,” said Parent. She empathizes with other families who could not be together for this special milestone. “Even though we couldn’t be there in person, thanks to FaceTime, we were able to share the moment she opened the email containing her match results.”
Parent and Levine are part of thousands of medical school families around the country who have had to embrace these virtual celebrations. The spring season at Penn State College of Medicine is packed full of research presentations, awards and ceremonies. Since experts cannot predict when social distancing guidelines will be relaxed, College of Medicine leaders plan on celebrating many of these springtime celebrations virtually – including Commencement.
“Every medical school, including ours, is trying to be creative to give students and their families a very special, albeit different, commencement experience,” Parent said. “Students, families, faculty and staff may miss these in-person ceremonies and events, but we will celebrate the amazing accomplishments of this resilient class of students as they prepare to scatter across the country for residencies, postdoctoral studies and other positions.”
If you're having trouble accessing this content, or would like it in another format, please email Penn State Health Marketing & Communications.