University of Rochester Medical students graduate early

Patrick Moussignac
Created: April 09, 2020 06:48 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Graduation day for nearly 100 University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry students came six weeks early. 

The new doctors are being pressed into service to help battle this growing pandemic.

Rochester area hospitals will soon add some brand new doctors to join in the fight against COVID-19. 

Wednesday, the students graduated in April instead of May so that they can start caring for patients.

URMC Senior Associate Dean for Student Education Dr. David Lambert says Strong Memorial Hospital is following the Executive Order set by Governor Cuomo.

"They will have a license to practice medicine," Lambert said. "They will be caring for patients. Patients with COVID, suspected COVID and those without. So they will be physicians with some supervision by more experienced licensed physicians." 

Irondequoit native Katie Harmer received her medical degree and plans to practice Family Medicine here in Rochester.

It's a specialty where you can take care of anyone regardless of their age, or their gender, or the organs that are, that's sometimes causing their problems, and I think that field is really salient right now," Harmer said. 

Fellow graduate John DeGuardi will soon enter Emergency Medicine.

"They moved up our last course to help prepare us specifically for graduating early, and then we touched on Covid specific topics that helped us get in sort of a mindset, sort of what to expect as we enter their field," DeGuardi said.

Like all the other newly graduated students both Harmer and DeGuardi are not yet board-certified.

"Board certification comes after their training so if you do pediatrics, you're board certified after you finish pediatric residency, but they are eligible for licensing by the State of New York at this time," Dr. Lambert said.

The fast track graduation ceremony was held virtually online. It's not the way they imagined it. After receiving their Medical Degrees both Harmer and DeGuardi celebrated their accomplishments in similar ways.

"A couple of friends drove their cars in front of my house, and started playing the Graduation Song on their speakers, and they bought a bottle of champagne," Deguardi said.

"My entire extended family drove up to the lawn outside my apartment building and organized themselves in little groups, far apart from each other organized by households, and brought signs and instruments and they played Pomp and Circumstances, and cheered for me," Harmer said.

Of the 99 students, Dr. Lambert says 18 of them will do their residency here in Rochester. Thirty students will work somewhere in New York, and the rest will spread out across the country.

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