On Friday, May 1st, Rocky Vista University (RVU) celebrated the graduation of 152 medical students from its College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM). RVU hosted a virtual Commencement Ceremony during which a pre-recorded video was distributed to the graduates for them to share with friends and loved ones.
The circumstances that prompted a virtual ceremony were unprecedented and RVU endeavored to incorporate the traditions that have made the Commencement Ceremony so memorable in the past. The week of the ceremony, Class of 2020 received their regalia, graduation programs, and diplomas via mail. Though the most anticipated moment – when a graduate walks across the stage to be “hooded” by a loved one – was not realized in-person, the graduates could choose to have a loved one in their household carry out this rite of passage; this marks the student’s designation as a holder of a doctorate degree. Graduates then celebrated by posting photos on social media and sharing them with the RVU community.
Clinton E. Adams, DO, FACHE, President and CEO, and Thomas N. Told, DO, FACOFP, dist., Dean and Chief Academic Officer of RVUCOM, congratulated the graduates on the completion of their program during the ceremony, and acknowledged the sacrifices they have made to get to this moment in their medical careers. “There are as many stories about sacrifices, aspirations, overcoming great obstacles, and realizing the impossible dream, as there are graduates here today,” said Dr. Adams.
The keynote address was delivered by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas L. Ely, DO, FACOFP, FAAFP, a fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians. In his address, Dr. Ely touched on what sets the osteopathic medical profession apart: “As you sit at the side of an ill patient, a patient who is in pain or is despondent…as an osteopathic physician [you] bring something special: empathy. That is what connects you as an osteopathic physician to another human who is ill.” He also emphasized the importance of self-care and reaching out to fellow physicians for support.
Lt. Col. Ely also conducted the Commissioning Ceremony, which recognized the ranking of 19 graduates from the Military Medicine Track, one of RVU’s specialty programs. As a Military Friendly® School, RVU has among the highest number of students attending on a military scholarship of all civilian medical schools in the nation. Earlier in the year, RVU was awarded the Military Friendly® Top Ten School Gold Award for its commitment to military students and military medical education.
As a gift from RVU to the Class of 2020, each graduating senior received a 12-month subscription to COMBANK, a question bank designed to help students prepare for the COMLEX Level 3 examination, which certifies students as competent in the foundational domains of osteopathic medicine. They were also gifted an engraved pen set and an Alumni Association pin.
RVU has continued its trend of having 100% of its medical students place into their chosen residency programs. The top specialties graduates will be entering are family medicine, internal medicine, general surgery, and pediatrics. Graduates were also matched into excellent specialty programs such as anesthesiology, psychiatry, neurology, obstetrics-gynecology, urology, ophthalmology, and more.
During the ceremony, Drs. Told and Ely were recognized with RVU’s most prestigious awards for their dedication to osteopathic medicine in academia and in the military, respectively. Dr. Told was recognized with the Presidential Award of Excellence for his excellent approach to osteopathic medical education at RVU and in Colorado. As part of a team that informed RVU’s founding owners, he helped them see the vision for serving the Mountain West and its rural communities. At RVU, Dr. Told was integral in the creation of tracks and special programs, simulation initiatives, and the Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences and Physician Assistant Programs. “Whether it involves rural medicine, the full practice of family medicine, or his uncanny and witty aphorisms, Dr. Told has been the bedrock for RVU’s success,” said Dr. Adams.
Dr. Ely was awarded the Anthony J. LaPorta Order of Military Excellence. The award recognizes individuals for their unique and significant contributions to military medicine. As a commissioned officer in the US Army Medical Service Corps, Dr. Ely completed two combat tours in Vietnam, serving as a “Dustoff” medical evacuation pilot. He was honored with several distinctions, including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and Meritorious Service with two Oak Leaf Clusters, for his service. He retired from the Army in 1988 with the rank of lieutenant colonel and went into private practice as a family physician in Clarksville, Tennessee, and subsequently served as the chief medical officer for the Gateway Medica Center. Even after he retired, Dr. Ely returned to the Army in 1991 in support of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Also honored during the ceremony were the graduates from the MSBS program, who will officially graduate and receive their degrees on Saturday, May 16th.