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“Resilient” RSOM Class of 2024 Graduate

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125 new MDs persevered after entering medical school during the Covid-19 pandemic; Dr. Anthony Fauci addresses the students as they enter the field of medicine

STONY BROOK, NY, May 16, 2024 – The Renaissance School of Medicine (RSOM) at Stony Brook University celebrated 50 years with its 2024 convocation, a ceremony on May 14 in which 125 graduates received their Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. This year’s graduates bring the total to more than 5,000 individuals who have earned MD degrees from the school since the first graduating class of 18 people in 1974.

In July the new MDs will start their careers as resident physicians. Collectively, they will practice at hospitals and academic medical centers in New York State and 19 other states nationwide. For those staying in New York, more than one-third will begin their careers at Stony Brook Medicine.

Peter Igarashi, MD, Knapp Dean of the RSOM, opened the ceremony by honoring the legacy and generosity of James Simons, the Stony Brook University alumnus, philanthropist, founder of Renaissance Technologies, and benefactor to the University, who passed away on May 10. The medical school was renamed to the Renaissance School of Medicine in 2018 in recognition of a gift by more than 100 families at Renaissance Technologies.

“Many of you entered medical school in 2020 during the worst waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it was a time of fear and uncertainty before vaccines and effective treatments,” said Dr. Igarashi. “It took great courage to enter healthcare at that time. You did that to pursue your dream of becoming a physician. Today that dream becomes a reality. Your perseverance has paid off, and your resilience will serve you well as you continue your training in medicine.”

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125 graduates of the Renaissance School of Medicine (RSOM) at Stony Brook University received their MD degrees in 2024.
Credit: Arthur Fredericks

Reflecting on the RSOM at large, Dean Igarashi characterized  the school as still young but one with a significant impact in academic medicine.

Physician researchers and other scientific investigators within the RSOM have contributed greatly to the advancement of medicine. Their accomplishments include the development of the first monoclonal antibody to prevent blood clots and the discovery of the cause of Lyme disease. For a list of the leading medical breakthroughs by Stony Brook basic and clinical researchers over the past 50 years, see this webpage.

William Wertheim, MD, MBA, Interim Executive Vice President for Stony Brook Medicine, and Endowed Chair in Graduate Medical Education, saw the moment as fitting, celebrating the 50th Convocation with such an extraordinary class.

“All of you start your careers in medicine when the need for physicians is great, and the need for empathy, clarity, and an ability for physicians to make the science of medicine accessible to their patients is substantial,” said Dr. Wertheim. “I am confident that the skills you have learned while at Stony Brook have laid this foundation for your careers.”

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Anthony S. Fauci, MD, addressing the RSOM graduating Class of 2024.
Credit: Arthur Fredericks

Anthony S. Fauci, MD, who led the national response to the HIV/AIDS and Covid-19 pandemics, addressed the Class of 2024. Dr. Fauci is Distinguished University Professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and the McCourt School of Public Policy, Distinguished Senior Scholar at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, former Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and a key advisor to seven U.S. Presidents.

“Your journey has been exceptional, and in some cases unprecedented,” Dr. Fauci told the graduates, referring to their medical school years during the pandemic and the New York metro area as one hit hard by Covid-19.

Dr. Fauci said that the lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic will help prepare the new physicians not only for the next pandemic but for their careers more broadly. He gave three pieces of advice for the graduates to consider as they move into medicine – expect the unexpected, beware of the insidious nature of anti-science, and recognize the consequences of a divided nation.

He encouraged the Class to focus on patients as the beneficiaries of all they do, and stated that “our collective future is truly in your hands.”

Stony Brook Paves the Way

Two graduates who matriculated at Stony Brook for eight years under the BS to MD tract, known as the Scholars for Medicine Program, cherished their Stony Brook education.

Kunal Shah, raised in Queens, NY, after his parents immigrated from India, excelled in his academics in high school on Long Island. From an early age, he became interested in caring for children, particularly during his experience as a child helping his toddler cousin who was treated for medulloblastoma.

During his clinical rotation training at Stony Brook, Shah’s interest in pediatrics only expanded as he helped to care for numerous patients and families at Stony Brook Children’s. He hopes to specialize in pediatric cardiology and will begin a residency in Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital, at both locations in Baltimore and Florida.

By chance, Shah’s freshman year roommate in the Scholars for Medicine Program, Mahesh Tiwari, was also from Queens, NY.

Tiwari, inspired by his mother’s vocation as a primary care physician serving in Queens, also saw at a young age the difference physicians can make in people’s lives. As a youth he pursued his interests in science, community health issues, and music.

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Classmates, friends, and new MDs, from left: Kunal Shah, Maame Yaa Brako, and Mahesh Tiwari.
Credit: Arthur Fredericks

While at Stony Brook, Tiwari founded the Camerata Choir within the RSOM and continued to build a music career as an organist on Long Island and in New York City.

“The flexibility of the Stony Brook academic program enabled me to study and excel in organ performance, as well as receive an unparalleled education and conduct research on the health needs of Long Island communities,” he said.

Other RSOM students, including fellow graduate Maame Yaa Brako, joined the choir to balance their lives as busy medical students. Brako, who had immigrated from Ghana to Canada before coming to Stony Brook, will join the Brigham and Women’s Hospital / Massachusetts General Hospital Integrated Residency Program in Obstetrics & Gynecology in Boston.

Tiwari will pursue his life as a new physician and continue his passion for playing music at another academic medical center in a university environment, as an Internal Medicine resident at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson in New Jersey.

All of the RSOM graduates, past and present, have their own unique stories regarding their path into medicine. They all had at least one thing in common – a RSOM education.

For a look back at the beginnings of Stony Brook Medicine, its Health Sciences Center, the launch of the medical school and what evolved and grew into the RSOM, see this timeline.

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