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Graduating students move their tassels to the left at a convocation ceremony.

Class of 2024 celebrated for resilience, perseverance at Spring Convocation

May 17, 2024 — 

The newest doctors, dentists, dental hygienists and pharmacists to graduate from the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences received their degrees on May 16 at morning and afternoon Spring Convocation ceremonies on the Bannatyne campus.

A total of 205 students graduated, representing three colleges in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences – the Max Rady College of Medicine, Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry (including the School of Dental Hygiene) and College of Pharmacy.

Medical grads encouraged to embrace complexity, uncertainty

Graham Sher speaks at convocation in front of a large University of Manitoba banner.

Dr. Graham Sher

At their convocation ceremony in the morning, Manitoba’s newest doctors were told to “be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

Dr. Graham Sher was conferred an honorary doctor of laws degree at the morning ceremony at Brodie Centre on Bannatyne campus. A South African-born hematologist, he is chief executive officer Canadian Blood Services. He has been with the organization since it was established in 1998.

Addressing convocation, he talked about the strain that health care is under due to rising health inequities and an overstretched workforce. He encouraged the graduates to embrace complexity and uncertainty in their careers.  

“As you leave these halls and enter the halls of hospitals, clinics and research institutes know that two concepts will define and influence your careers. Learn to grasp them and to master them, as I had to and still do today,” he said.

The Max Rady College of Medicine Class of 2024 includes 106 graduates. Of these, 76 will undertake their residencies in Manitoba.

Dr. Peter Nickerson, vice-provost (health sciences) and dean of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences congratulated the graduates, most of whom started their programs at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am in awe of your resilience and fortitude to overcome the immense and unprecedented challenges you faced these last four years, particularly beginning medical school in a virtual world,” he said.

“I’m excited knowing that, because you endured in the face of a global pandemic, you have a fantastic future in front of you.”

A graduate reads a physician's pledge at a convocation ceremony.

A Max Rady College of Medicine graduate reads the physician’s pledge.

The Class of 2024 also includes 12 students of Indigenous ancestry, many of whom intend to give back to their communities.

Dr. Gillian McIvor is Métis and grew up in Winnipeg. She is excited to begin her residency with the college’s family medicine northern and remote stream program.

“I entered medical school with a drive to work with Indigenous communities. The most notable physicians for me have been the ones who are completely intertwined in their communities and that is exactly what I want to be,” she said.

Dr. Stefon Irvine is Cree-Métis and grew up in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan. He identifies as gay two-spirit and as a member of the queer community. During medical school he was heavily involved with creating programs to assist incoming Indigenous medical students, with the goal of seeing more Indigenous physicians graduate.

“I aim to bridge the health-care gap for Elders, residential school survivors, and those still affected by the ongoing impacts of colonization,” he said.

Irvine is also headed to northern Manitoba for his family medicine residency.

“It’s surreal to finally be able to call ourselves doctors. Med school is a lot of hard work, like anything in life, but you really have to push yourself to be here.”

Watch an Instagram reel showing highlights of the ceremony.

Dentistry, dental hygiene and pharmacy grads persevered through pandemic

Graduands seated at a convocation ceremony, wearing their caps and gowns.

Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry Class of 2024 graduates.

At the convocation ceremony in the afternoon, Dr. Anastasia Kelekis-Cholakis, dean of the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry, and Dr. Lalitha Raman-Wilms, dean of the College of Pharmacy, commended the graduating students on their persistence and hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You have worked during a pandemic under very challenging circumstances and are finally here to celebrate,” Kelekis-Cholakis told the 35 doctor of dental medicine graduates (seven were in the International Dentist Degree Program (IDDP) and 24 School of Dental Hygiene graduates.

Speaking to the 40 doctor of pharmacy graduates (PharmD), Raman-Wilms said they were challenged with a rigorous curriculum in a difficult time.

“You should be immensely proud of yourselves – as we are of all of you – your journey has been nothing short of extraordinary,” Raman-Wilms said.

Dr. Madison Wong, a PharmD graduate who served as president of the UM Pharmacy Students’ Association and of the Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns, which represents the interests of more than 4,000 pharmacy students across the country, said it was difficult for her class to grow close to each other at the start of the program because they were taking classes remotely.

“It feels incredible that I’ve gotten this far,” said Wong, who will be starting a hospital pharmacy residency with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. “It’s been a long four years.”

Dr. Dale Porth said that completing his dentistry degree was a whirlwind of emotions.

“I’ve been a student for the las 10 years, so having everything come to an end is almost like an ureal moment, but I’m just trying to soak it all in and enjoy it,” said Porth, who grew up in Winnipeg and his family is from Sioux Valley Dakota Nation.

Dr. Ayodeji Omotayo said he had a great experience at the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry.

“I came in here as a dentist, but I’m leaving here as a super dentist,” said Omotayo, who practiced dentistry in Nigeria before coming to Canada and entering UM’s IDDP. “Someone has refined you, has taken all those things you’ve learnt and polished you up. I’m leaving here with gratitude that I’ve received this education.”

When dental hygiene graduate Olivia Rodriguez crossed the stage to receive her parchment, she was thinking that it wasn’t the end but a new beginning.

“It’s just the start,” said Rodriguez, who will be working at a dental clinic in Winnipeg. “This is the beginning of a whole new life.”

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