From left, Rania Abdel-Rahman, Cameron Anderson, Jeff Barwick and John Belle were among the 81 Brody School of Medicine graduates who participated in convocation and graduation ceremonies May 7 and 8. Photo by Cliff Hollis
(May 7, 2004)
A physician known for his humor, a hospital executive and the dean of the School of Nursing were the featured speakers for the three convocations May 7 marking the graduation of the 360 Division of Health Sciences students at East Carolina University.
Dr. Neil Shuman spoke to the 81 School of Medicine graduates about the need to have passion in your work in medicine and outside of it. He also suggested that a hearty laugh is a good prescription for anyone, every day.
“Don’t take yourself too seriously. If they are laughing at you or with you, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Shulman, an associate professor of medicine at Emory University, wrote “What? Dead…Again?, a novel that was the basis for the “Doc Hollywood” film and served as associate producer of the 1991 hit movie starring Michael J. Fox. He describes himself as not only a physician, but also an author, speaker and entertainer.
Shulman set the tone for his different type of convocation speech when he removed his academic regalia to reveal a shiny vest and red bow tie, which complimented his black top hat instead of the traditional graduation cap.
He told the graduates and their families and friends, “Life is a dash between two numbers on a tombstone, and it’s a great place to help others enjoy their dash.”
He also praised the Brody School of Medicine for “getting health care to where it’s needed. This institution stands at the highest ranks,” he said.
After his address, Shulman visited Sadie Saulter Elementary and South Greenville Elementary schools to speak to children about the importance of good health.
Dr. Julius Mallette, senior associate dean, officially presented the class. “Thank you for allowing us to borrow your child and your spouse,” he said. “A famous politician once said that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a small nation to raise a doctor. These are all good doctors and now my fellow alumni.”
Chris Simons, president of the class, gave the class response. He spoke of class projects such as building wheelchair ramps and houses and the individual achievements of class members, but he focused on the class as a group working together to become physicians.
“Today is a celebration of teamwork,” he said. He urged his classmates to go out and serve their communities well. “To the Brody School of Medicine, please continue to give ordinary people the chance to become extraordinary physicians,” he said.
One of the celebrating class members was Rebecca Erwin of Charlotte. Her parents beamed as Rebecca and her siblings took photos and hugged. “I’m just so happy for her,” her mother, Jane Erwin, said.
Her mother had brought something for Erwin to see the weekend she officially became a doctor. It was a one-page essay she had written in first grade on “When I grow up.”
In 1985, Erwin wrote: “When I grow up I want to be a doctor. I have none (sic) about this for three weeks. The reason I want to be a doctor is because I want to help people. It will be very important for me to do well in school and go to college. Then I will need to go to medical school. I would like to go to Disney World.”
Erwin said she felt “overwhelmed, excited, scared and happy.” She’ll soon head to the University of Virginia for internal medicine residency preliminary year and then complete a residency in neurology.
Later that day, 111 graduates of the School of Nursing marched into Wright Auditorium for their convocation, which fell during National Nurses Week.
ECU is North Carolina’s largest nursing school, producing more new nurses than any other university in the state, said Dean Phyllis Horns.
“I hope you always remember (that) being a nurse is a privilege,” she said. “Practice it with honor.”
The new graduates join more than 4,800 ECU alumni awarded nursing degrees since