USC Department of Preventive Medicine celebrates 2020 graduates in (virtual) style

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The Department of Preventive Medicine at Keck School of Medicine of USC celebrated the class of 2020 with a virtual graduation party in lieu of the annual in-person event that is the tradition of the department.

The online event featured congratulatory remarks from Dr. Thomas Valente, Interim Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine, who donned full regalia as he encouraged graduates. “This is such an incredible time in history,” he said, “but it’s also an incredible opportunity for people who are studying health and all different kinds of public health issues.” Other speakers included Dr. Luanne Rohrbach, Director of the Master of Public Health Program, Dr. Jim Gauderman, Director of the Division of Biostatistics, and Dr. Shubha Kumar, Director of the Master of Public Health Online Program, all of whom expressed similar sentiments and their pride in graduates. Dr. Richard Watanabe, Associate Dean for Health and Population Science Programs, served as master of ceremonies.

Faculty from across the department appeared via video montage to offer celebratory messages. Common themes included perseverance, hope, and the critical and increasingly prominent role public health professionals will continue to play in a perhaps tempestuous future.

Special recognition was given to the 2020 inductees into Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health. The honorary society was established at Johns Hopkins University in 1924 to promote graduate study in public health and recognize outstanding achievement in the field. Each year a small number of Master of Public Health graduates, all ranked in the top 20% of their class and considered by a committee likely to make significant contributions to the field of public health, are selected for induction. The celebration also highlighted a variety of graduates’ accomplishments across department programs, including speaking engagements, presentations, awards, grants and fellowships.

The event concluded with a slideshow celebration of preventive medicine graduates, featuring students and memories from masters’ and doctoral degree programs. As congratulatory messages flew by in the chat box, department and program leadership offered graduates a vote of confidence in their chosen field. “For the first time in a century, public health is the most important topic in the whole world,” said Valente. “It may be crazy, but it’s also a world of opportunity.” Watanabe agreed, “You guys are going to make significant contributions to public health. You’ll literally change the world.”

— by Carolyn Barnes