UTMB's School of Medicine celebrated its 124th commencement with 215 students receiving their degrees on Saturday, June 5 at the Moody Gardens Convention Center.

Former astronaut Dr. Scott Parazynski, Chief Medical Officer and director of the Center for Polar Medical Operations at UTMB, delivered the keynote address and encouraged the new doctors to challenge themselves and to continue to set lofty life goals as they proceed on with their medical careers.

“You have to keep striving, keep on challenging yourself.  Don’t be afraid to keep your bucket list full at all times,” Parazynski said.

The only person to have both flown in space and summited Mount Everest, Parazynski stressed the importance of teamwork. He recalled a hard decision he faced during his first attempt to reach the summit saying that he could have tried to continue the climb after he ruptured a disc in his back. “But I had to think of the team and not just myself.  I would have jeopardized not only my life but those of my teammates. So as doctors we have to always be thinking about how our decisions and actions affect others.”

More than half of the graduating class will continue with their studies as residents at Texas hospitals; 37 of them will do all or a part of their residency training at UTMB, said Dr. Danny O. Jacobs, executive vice president and provost and dean of the School of Medicine. He noted that about a fifth of the class is from Harris County.

“We’re very proud of the fact that many of our graduates will be residents at some of the best hospitals in our nation,” Jacobs said.  “And we are equally proud that so many of our graduates will remain in Texas to continue their training.”

Several honors and awards highlighted the ceremonies, among them:

Sean Patrick Kelly was the recipient of the 2014 Gold-Headed Cane Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a graduating medical student for his extraordinary dedication to the health and welfare of patients.

The 2014 Gold-Headed Cane finalists were Nikhil Koshy, Roxanne Lee Radi, Danielle Fay Schwartzenburg and Jaipreet Singh Suri.

The following seven members of the Class of 2014 were commissioned as military officers:
  • Captain Miguel Jared Cano
  • Captain Jordan Christopher Carl
  • Captain Phillip Ryan Hendley
  • Lieutenant Matthew Joseph Lowery
  • Captain Sterling Shanon McKissack
  • Captain Lesli Michelle Rogers
  • Captain Julian Andrew Vellucci
Sean Mark Paschall was awarded the William N. and Ida Zinn Alpha Omega Award for the highest cumulative grade point average.

Dr. Bernard M. Karnath, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, received the James W. Powers Memorial Award. The award honors a teacher selected by the graduating class who, through his example and instruction, best embodies the mission of educating physicians capable of practicing the art and science of medicine.

Drs. Ronald Deskin,Tedd Mitchell, Peter Rojas and Michael Silva were honored with the Ashbel Smith Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest alumni honor bestowed by UTMB’s School of Medicine Alumni Association.

For a complete list of all awards, click here.

2014 SOM commencement videos: