College of Medicine – Tucson convocation marks next step in careers of graduating physicians

May 7, 2024

On May 9, more than 100 medical students will take the Hippocratic Oath and be draped with an academic hood to represent their initiation into the field of medicine.

University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson Class of 2023

The MD Class of 2023 poses for a final group shot after receiving their medical degrees.

Mitchell Masilun

On May 9, more than 100 University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson students will receive their medical degrees at Centennial Hall, where they will take the Hippocratic Oath and be draped with an academic hood to represent their initiation into the field of medicine.

“The students in the class of 2024 will always be special to me because they are the first to complete all four years of their medical education during my tenure,” said Michael M.I. Abecassis, MD, MBA, the Humberto and Czarina Lopez Endowed Dean of the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson. “What’s more, they began at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which not only presented a tremendous challenge but a truly unique learning opportunity. Throughout their medical education journey, they have shown tremendous resilience, dedication and compassion, and we look forward to the transformative impact they will have as physicians.”

The newly minted physicians will begin residency training programs this summer, dispersed across 66 graduate medical education training centers in 29 states and the District of Columbia. They will pursue specialties in areas such as vascular surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine and child neurology. Seven of the graduates participated in the college’s MD/PhD dual-degree program and previously earned doctorates.

Nearly 30% of the graduates will remain in Arizona and more than half will go into primary care, which are important factors in addressing the state and national shortage of primary care physicians.

Additionally, as part of the college’s commitment to nurturing culturally competent care, three graduates are past participants in the Pre-Medical Admissions Pathway, or P-MAP, Program. The intensive medical school preparation program is designed for students who demonstrate intellect, aptitude and drive, yet have had fewer opportunities to become competitive medical school applicants.

Graduates and convocation attendees will hear welcome remarks from Dean Abecassis, followed by a keynote speech by Akinlolu Ojo, MD, PhD, MBA, executive dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine. Zoe Draelos, MD, ’79, ’83, a distinguished leader in cosmetic science and research in dermatological care, will address graduates as the college’s 2023-2024 Alumna of the Year. Aileen Lee was elected by her peers to give the student graduation address. Degrees will be conferred by University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins, MD, and Dean Abecassis will lead graduates in reciting the Hippocratic Oath and deliver closing remarks.

For more information, visit the college’s graduation website.

Beyond the MD: Convocations celebrate a variety of graduates

The College of Medicine – Tucson confers degrees to undergraduate and graduate students in separate graduation ceremonies. On May 10, Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences degrees will be awarded to 269 graduates majoring in physiology and medical sciences.

“Physiology and medical sciences at the University of Arizona remains one of the most popular degree programs on campus because of its proven record of success,” said Claudia Stanescu, PhD, associate professor and director of undergraduate programs for the Department of Physiology. “Undergraduate students are taught and mentored by exceptional faculty, many of whom also teach in the medical curriculum at the College of Medicine – Tucson. As we commend the accomplishments of this year’s graduates, we eagerly await the impactful endeavors they will undoubtedly pursue. Their academic prowess and dedication to excellence are poised to leave an indelible mark, and we look forward to seeing all that they accomplish.”

Joining the physiology and medical sciences graduates will be 12 graduates of the Bachelor of Science in Emergency Medical Services program, which was launched in 2019. Seven students will graduate in the spring, and five will complete the program this summer.

“Attaining a bachelor’s degree in EMS represents a notable milestone that distinguishes individuals within the profession,” said Joshua Gaither, MD, professor of emergency medicine and director of the EMS degree program. “Our curriculum is designed to provide graduates with advanced skills and abilities that are essential for assuming leadership roles in emergency medical services. Given the scarcity of such programs across the country, our 12 graduates are uniquely primed to make meaningful contributions to the EMS community.”

The new Bachelor of Science in Medicine will graduate its second class, with six students completing the program this year — four in the spring and two in the summer. The number of graduates with this degree is expected to rise as 686 students have declared the major since the program started in fall 2021.

“It is incredibly rewarding to see the rapid growth and rise in popularity of this program just a few years into its development,” said Paul Gordon, MD, MPH, co-director of the Bachelor of Science in Medicine program. “We give students the opportunity to explore the health care field and find what they are truly passionate about. We are tremendously proud of our graduates taking the next steps in their careers, and we are excited to see all that they can accomplish.”

On May 8, 56 students in bioscience graduate programs will receive degrees, including six master’s and nine doctoral degrees in clinical translational sciences; 10 master’s, 10 medical master’s and three doctorates in cellular and molecular medicine; three doctorates in immunobiology; five master’s degrees in genetics counseling; and five master’s and five doctoral degrees in medical pharmacology.

Meet the College of Medicine – Tucson Class of 2024 

Livia Calugaru

This week, Livia Calugaru will receive her Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences in physiology and medical sciences.

Sean O’Sullivan

Livia Calugaru: ‘I was absolutely fascinated’

Livia Calugaru, an honors physiology and medical sciences major from Goodyear, was drawn to her chosen field at an early age, when her parents brought her to the Body Worlds exhibit at the local science center.

“While most kids would have probably been terrified at the sight of exposed muscles and organs, I was absolutely fascinated and knew I wanted to understand bodily processes,” Calugaru says. “This was later enforced in high school while taking anatomy and physiology — I knew I wanted to continue my studies in college.”

While Calugaru’s studies and extracurricular commitments have kept her busy, her time with Health Connectors provided her favorite memory of her time as a student.

“I had the pleasure of teaching kindergarten. It was so rewarding that I could use my science and physiology background to improve their health literacy as well as improve my medical translation skills,” Calugaru remembers.

After she graduates, Calugaru will take a year of opportunity to further her experience in research, then apply for medical school hoping to specialize in either neurology or cardiology in pediatric medicine.

Daniom Tecle: ‘Excited to make new bonds’

Daniom Tecle

This week, Daniom Tecle will receive his medical degree and prepare for residency training in orthopedic surgery.

Angela Martinez

Daniom Tecle was born in Eritrea, but at 15 he fled the country with his mother and two siblings. After one-and-a-half years as refugees in Sudan, they moved to Morenci, Arizona, where his father worked as a mining engineer.

After high school, Tecle ran track and field for the University of Arizona and earned a degree in biomedical engineering. He also discovered his interest in medicine under the mentorship of Gregory Woodhead, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medical imaging.

“In my fourth year of college, I met Dr. Woodhead and decided to shadow him,” he said. “I liked that you can do research, treat patients and form connections along the way.”

In medical school, during a general surgery rotation, Tecle watched with fascination as doctors fixed a patient’s broken ribs with titanium plates.

“The attending told me there’s a whole department dedicated to this just next door,” he recalled. “I did a sub-internship in orthopedic surgery, and like that you are able to work with your hands, reconstruct fractures beautifully.”

After receiving his MD, Tecle will begin residency training in Milwaukee at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“It’s bittersweet, leaving med school and starting a new chapter,” he said. “I will miss my family in Tucson, but I’m excited to make new bonds with co-residents, attendings and mentors.”

Meet other members of the Class of 2024:

Sean O’Sullivan