The Pre-Convocation Ceremony celebrated that med school kept going despite the pandemic getting in the way of, well, just about everything.
Adding a personal touch to the formal process of Convocation, the Pre-Convocation Ceremony was held virtually on June 15. It included addresses by the class co-presidents, the class valedictorian, and a previously unidentified “guest speaker,” who turned out to be none other than Margaret Atwood.
But in the minutes leading up to the 255 members of the Class of 2T1 taking the graduation oath, everyone seemed focused on one thing only: Wow! The class completed med school during a pandemic!
“Today must be another emotional roller-coaster ride of happiness, pride, and anxiety,” said 2T1 Class Co-President Prem Nichani.
“Who would have thought that one of the most momentous occasions of our lives, graduating from medical school, would be celebrated virtually?
“Do not let that thought or feeling diminish all that you have achieved.”
The keynote address was given by Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, clinical investigator in the HIV Prevention Unit, and U of T associate professor. He expressed his confidence in this year’s graduates.
“You made it through, and you’re moving on,” began Dr. Bogoch (0T5). “And that’s incredible.
“Now I don’t mean to be a downer for your graduation, but what a terrible year. I don’t think there’s any other way to slice it. It has been a tough, tough year.
“As tough as this year has been, I really hope you enjoy your summer because well, you deserve it. It’s also going to get real for you very, very soon when you start residency…
“But you’re up for it. You are the Pandemic Class of 2021. You’ve got this, you can do it all.”
Early in the pandemic, there was talk of delaying graduation because it was feared that the curriculum couldn’t be covered without in-person classes and labs. But the MD program soon rose to the challenge.
However, the possibility of not being able to graduate this spring was difficult for the students, as class valedictorian Abdulrahman Jad, an international student from Saudi Arabia, explains.
“Being in the middle of third year in the midst of a pandemic was not an easy thing. Being on the verge of being held back and having this very graduation delayed was an added stressor to an already difficult year.
“Yet, we rallied together, and we did whatever we could to provide support to people on the frontlines and health care workers. We established points of connection, advocated for those who couldn’t advocate for themselves…
“We did the best we could with the hand we were dealt.”
Guest speaker Margaret Atwood saw the pandemic differently. “You’ve just had the invaluable experience of living through a pandemic,” said the famed Canadian novelist and poet.
She pointed out that by comparison, this pandemic isn’t so bad: “My grandfather was a country doctor, he went through the 1919 pandemic in rural Nova Scotia. And there were a lot more diseases then, so he had more to contend with.
“But nature is constantly inventing new diseases, and you will be readier for them than our society, unfortunately, was for this one.”
Class Co-President Ward Al-Far closed on an optimistic note. “Today is not the end; rather, it is the beginning,” he said. “You made your mark at U of T, and I hope that U of T has made its mark on you.”