Internal Medicine Residents Graduation, 2021

Preparation for an event as important as celebrating the graduation of our Internal Medicine residents starts months in advance. Because the department anticipated an event under pandemic precautions in which everyone—despite their vaccinations—would still need to remain socially distant and masked, the planning committee commissioned a series of pre-recorded videos that everyone could watch together. These could take the place of a less-structured social hour.

Members of the residency administrative team and our Design Center video production team began reaching out. Family members, colleagues, mentors, peers, friends, and a few “celebrities” to offer their congratulations to the graduates. Those submissions would form the bedrock of much of the evening’s material.

Some submissions stood on their own:

In addition, a more formal livestream was arranged so that family and friends who would be unable to attend could still watch. UI Health Care’s Marketing and Communications team lent their expertise and equipment to the effort.

But then everything changed just a couple weeks before the event. Masking, distancing, and gathering guidelines were relaxed at national, state, local, and institutional levels. Organizers quickly adapted some of the evening’s agenda, while still retaining much of the video already in production. The changes meant that when guests first arrived to Hancher Auditorium’s Stanley Café, a large open area on the theater’s second floor with floor-to-high-ceiling windows and a view of the Iowa River as it flows through campus, they could socialize before taking their seats. They could also gather for a large group photo on the stairs.

Once everyone was seated, the evening’s formal proceedings began. A welcome and words of congratulation from Program Director Manish Suneja, MD, was followed by similar words from Department Chair & DEO E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD, and from Mark Wilson, MD, MPH, Director of Graduate Medical Education for the Carver College of Medicine.  

After the welcomes were finished, guests then moved through a buffet line in stages. While they did, a video presenting each graduate ran on the screens, complete with messages of congratulations from faculty, family, and friends.  

At that video’s conclusion, there was one more video before the presentation of certificates, one in which many members of the program got to participate. Though all participants were aware of their portion, very few had seen just how it was all going to fit together and so the video, “Dr. Suneja Learns How to TikTok,” debuted to much delight in the room and only a little embarrassment.

After the laughter had died down and more than a few requests for access to some of the raw footage were made, the presentation of certificates began. Each graduate was introduced, took the stage, posed for a photo and then was given the opportunity to say a few words of thanks. Most speeches were improvised, some were prepared, all were heartfelt expressions of just how much this program had meant to them, particularly through such a difficult and isolating period when many relied heavily on each other for support.

Congratulations to all these graduates! (The evening’s epilogue is below these names and photos.)

Departing Preliminary Residents

John Denning
Aaron Dotson
Mitchell Gibbons
Andrew Goldstein
Tina Hendricks
Mahsaw Motlagh
Leigh Rettenmeier
Sean Rodriguez

Graduating Categorial Residents

Desmond BarberMatt BauerElin Beck
Kathleen BorghoffSydney BowmasterErin Briggie
Justin BuzickBenjamin ChenDean Elhag
Alick FengLaura HillDerek Hupp
Jayanshu JainHildur JonsdottirJohn Rieth
Craig RosenstengleJeff RytlewskiAlex Sieg
Andrew SimmsGiselle StatzDerek Vogel
Jeff ZavalaYana Zemkova

Graduating Medicine-Psychiatry Residents

Melissa LudgateJames Min

After many laughs, a few hugs and tears, and a lot of photographs, the graduates had formally been recognized. There was only two more pieces of business.

First, the winners of the Outstanding Resident of the Year and Outstanding Faculty Teacher of the Year were announced. Suneja kept the suspense simmering while he introduced each of the winners, having kept their identities a secret long enough for organizers to also arrange video tributes to them as well. That post and the winners’ videos are here. Each was fortunate to have a close loved one present that evening to witness.

Finally, a farewell and presentation to the Chief Residents was in order. Suneja expressed his deep gratitude for their leadership through such a challenging period.

After that, it was time for more hugs, more photos, and another round of good-byes. Although gatherings like this had not been possible for so much of their training, everyone made full use of this last opportunity.

Thank you to everyone who made this evening possible, especially Cindy Batzkiel, Denise Floerchinger, Abbey Gilpin, and Cory Sheets. Congratulations once again to these incredible and resilient physicians!

All the evening’s videos can be seen on this YouTube playlist:

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