The MAA salutes this year's graduates at the Pre-Convocation Ceremony
This year’s Pre-Convocation Ceremony, held virtually on June 1, opened with a brass band playing an uplifting piece. Dr. Yuang Chen (Class of 2T2) had composed “Of Greater Heights” specifically for his class’ graduation and in honour of Class Valedictorian Mohammad Asadi-Lari.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Andrew Boozary, U of T’s Dalla Lana Professorship in Policy Innovation. Boozary, who did his family medicine residency at U of T, reflected on his childhood in Toronto’s St. James Town, one of Canada’s most densely populated and economically deprived neighbourhoods. St. James Town’s towering apartment buildings look over one of Canada’s most affluent neighbourhoods, Rosedale.
“It became clear that when I was looking out across the balcony or across the street into leafy Rosedale, that it was almost like I was looking into Narnia,” said Boozary. “It just seemed like a mystical place, that the air that people were breathing just across the road seemed different. And the opportunities did not seem to make their way back to where we were in St. James Town.
“Postal codes are really just proxy for structural discrimination and systemic racism,” he said.
Several awards were given out at the Pre-Convocation Ceremony. The MAA presented five awards to faculty and staff, and 13 awards to students.
Students in the Class of 2T2 chose Mohammad Asadi-Lari as their Class Valedictorian. Tragically, Mohammed died with his sister Zeynab Asadi-Lari when Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down shortly after taking off from Tehran International Airport in Iran on January 8, 2020. All of the nine crew members and 176 passengers were killed.
Class Co-President Dr. Christopher End recalled, “Mo was Vice-President of Global Health as part of the U of T Medical Society. But that was only the tip of the iceberg for the positive changes that Mo was already making in the world. He was working with UNESCO, the Red Cross, and the Canadian Association for Physician Innovators and Entrepreneurs. He had already accomplished so much and is a giant whose shoulders continue to elevate others to greater heights.”
While Mohammed died in only his second year of the eight-year MD/PhD program, he made a big impression. During the ceremony, students shared their cherished memories of him. Classmate Dr. Liam McCoy said, “Despite being perhaps the busiest person I’ve met in my entire life, he was always able to find a moment for you.”