On May 31, several hundred students from across McGill University’s Health Sciences programs packed the tent on lower campus, joined by family and friends on a sunny spring day, to receive their degrees and to become, officially, McGill graduates.
“It’s a very surreal feeling after so many years of being in school to now finally be done. This is the best department I could have ever hoped for in a million years,” said Dr. Hailey Banack who received her PhD in Epidemiology and was awarded both the Governor General’s Gold Medal for the top graduating doctoral student across the University and the Gordon A. Maclachlan Prize as the top graduating doctoral student in health sciences. “There are a lot of really talented people at McGill. I’m ecstatic to have received these awards. I never would have imagined that I’d be considered one of the top students here because everyone is so brilliant and talented, so this was a really, really nice surprise for me.”
For some graduates, they will take a short time to relish their accomplishments before moving on to their next challenge. Robin Bastien, who received his Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy said that he, “feels pretty good because this has been three years in the making, but now that I’ve finally graduated I’m looking forward to medical school and more things to learn.” Aruna Sudarshan, who received her PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders is waiting to hear on the different postdoctoral opportunities that she applied for, while Bachelor of Nursing graduate Pascale Pellerin-Huet will begin a Master’s in Public Health while working as a nurse.
During the ceremony, the graduating students were joined on the platform by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, who received an honorary doctorate and then delivered a convocation address that earned him a standing ovation from the audience. Also recognized during the event was Dr. Robert Primavesi, Acting Assistant Dean, Admissions Office who received the Osler Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Faculty of Medicine and Dr. John Bergeron, who was presented with the McGill Medal for Exceptional Academic Achievement. “The McGill Medal for Exceptional Academic Achievement is an astonishing honour,” said Dr. Bergeron. “The opportunity of working with so many outstanding colleagues, students, trainees and staff at McGill is itself a privilege and this honour is recognition of their collective excellence.”
Dr. Phil Branton, Gilman Cheney Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the Faculty of Medicine was presented with his own McGill Medal for Exceptional Academic Achievement during the Sciences Convocation held on June 6. “My move to McGill in 1990 was a major factor both in enhancing my research career and in allowing me to take a leadership role at McGill, in Canada and internationally,” noted Dr. Branton. “I am very grateful for the excellence and collegiality of my colleagues, our great students and trainees, and the innovative spirit of our administrators. It is a tremendous and unexpected honour to be awarded the McGill Medal.”
Overwhelmingly, graduates were content to savor the moment while reflecting on their McGill experience. “It’s great to be here with people who I have loved for so long like my family and with people who I have come to love in the last four years and to celebrate a massive accomplishment for all of us,” said Dr. Mathew Cherian, an MDCM graduate. “McGill was great,” said fellow MDCM graduate Dr. Stéphanie Dufour who won prizes for pediatrics and obstetrics and was also named to the Dean’s Honour List. “Especially being at Gatineau – it was awesome, the best choice of my life.”
Patricia Ndanjoe, a Bachelor’s of Nursing graduate summed it up well. “It was a great three years to be here and I am very proud and happy. It was challenging but fulfilling.”
Below is a selection of photos from the Health Sciences 2016 Convocation: