A lifelong dream became a reality for 96 medical students on May 13, commencement day at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. The ceremony took place at the Toni and Martin Sosnoff Theater, John Cranford Adams Playhouse at Hofstra University.
Presiding at the event was Zucker School of Medicine dean, Dr. Lawrence G. Smith, Hofstra president, Stuart Rabinowitz, and president and CEO of Northwell Health, Michael Dowling, including keynote speaker and president emeritus of the Association of American Medical Schools, Dr. Jordan Cohen, who received the first honorary degree conferred by the medical school.
“I was here at the (school’s) inception and have observed over the years how Dean Smith and President Dowling have taken the opportunity that Hofstra has provided to create what is the most innovative, exciting and successful new medical schools in the country,” said Cohen in his address. “It is truly an exceptional place.”
The Zucker School of Medicine’s Class of 2019 features a diverse group of men and women with varied backgrounds and stories leading up to becoming our nation’s newest physicians and scientists. Graduates range from those embarking a new career path like Dr. David Pflaum, a former chef and winemaker.
“I started as a winemaker, first in New Zealand and then in France and California where I had an opportunity to run a small winery in Napa. I loved working in the winery laboratory, but I just lost interest in the product. I decided to look for something that would allow me to apply my newfound excitement for science with a real dedication to service,” said Pflaum, 36, accepted to a residency in psychiatry at Northwell’s Zucker Hillside Hospital.
“As an older student, I needed a program that was more dynamic and forward thinking. I found exactly that at Zucker School of Medicine.”
There were those who managed to balance medical school and motherhood, like class of 2019 student speaker and parent of three children, Dr. Devora Lichtman.
“Within a few weeks of the first day of medical school, our class banded together to become a family. We are hard-working, driven, and dedicated but at the same time supportive and present to share in each other’s triumphs,” said Lichtman, who is looking forward to her residency at the Cleveland Clinic. Her children range in age from eight years to 10 months old. “We are a class of students who care a lot.”
Also among the newly minted field of doctors are the first graduates of Hofstra University’s 4+4 BA/BS-MD program, an eight-year curriculum that combines undergraduate and medical school education; the first MD/MPH degree recipient and three MD/PhDs; a female military officer sworn as Navy lieutenant during the ceremony; and nearly 20 students who chose to spend part of their last year of training serving regions in dire medical need through Northwell’s global health initiative.
“Being the child of Latino immigrants, global health is a large part of my future aspirations. The Ecuador program was a perfect fit for me as it allowed me to help advance local initiatives in Latin America and improve my medical Spanish,” said Dr. Keven Cabrera, who is to begin a residency this summer at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. “While in Ecuador, I learned a myriad of new ways to help underserved communities with little to no resources. I plan on using these skills in my career.”
With well-earned degrees in hand, Zucker School of Medicine graduates set off on different paths as scientists and physicians in many of the most sought-after residency programs in the country, which includes the expanding healthcare community at Northwell.