American University of Antigua College of Medicine’s largest graduating class takes oath, moves tassel, accepts challenge.

With a mixture of solemnity and celebration, the 2011 graduating class of the American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine gathered across the street from the august halls of New York’s Grand Central Station to officially become doctors of medicine.

The ceremony, held at the Grand Hyatt hotel, was presided over by senior AUA faculty and staff, as well as prominent academic figures including Chancellor of India’s Manipal University Dr. Ramdas Pai.

“None of us would be here without his [Dr. Pai’s] help and advice,” said President of American University of Antigua Neal Simon.

Also present were political dignitaries Antigua and Barbuda Ambassador to the United States and Organization of American States Dame Deborah-Mae Lovell and New York State Senator John L. Sampson, the keynote speaker. Dr. Ramdas Pai, Ambassador Deborah-Mae Lovell, and Dr. Majid Pathan.

The 165 graduates represented the largest graduating class to date.

“We’ve seen the beautiful, new, palatial campus with state-of-the-art SIM Lab on the school’s website,” said Riviere-Marcelin in the course of her speech, “and can’t help but compare it to the campus on which we began our medical education.” She ruefully recalled looking out the window during classes in the old campus, only to “meet the eyes of the ever-indifferent cows grazing the field.” Despite the occasional bovine distraction, the 2011 graduating class experienced resounding success.

“While our new campus stands as a testament to AUA’s commitment to medical education,” said Simon, “… [students] are our greatest testament to the success of AUA and for that I want to congratulate you.”

“You secured, as a group, very good residency positions all across the nation,” said Vice President for Academic Development and Executive Dean, Clinical Science for AUA Dr. Peter Bell. Graduates in the 2011 class had secured positions at a number of world-class institutions, including the Mayo Clinic, University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Case Western Reserve, and Mt. Sinai.

New York State Senator John L. Sampson was equally optimistic about the future of this graduating class, as well as the ones to come. From the podium, he explained that the medical landscape was changing, and that “the baby boomers are getting older, and this means an enormous leap in how many doctors and nurses we [will] need in our hospitals today.” The problem will be worse in both rural and urban, with international medical schools being called on to fill this gap.

According to an International Medical Graduates report, international medical schools such as AUA account for almost a quarter of actively practicing physicians in the U.S., helping address the physician deficit. “American University of Antigua is doing just that,” said Senator Sampson, “combining the old with the new and revolutionizing the way healthcare is going to be administered in this century.”

Further honoring the idea of actively confronting the problems facing the medical community, AUA granted an honorary degree toPresident and CEO of Wyckoff Heights Medical Center Rajiv K. Garg. Aside from recognizing Wykcoff Heights’ commitment to providing clinical training for new generations of physicians, the degree paid tribute to Dr. Garg’s work in developing new systems of healthcare delivery and theories of reform.

Salutatorian Thomas Sholes echoed this commitment to bettering the state of medicine in the United States. “With this degree and title comes great responsibility,” said Sholes in his speech, “a responsibility that will expand and continue to find itself throughout our upcoming years in residency and years as a physician.”

In his own address to the students, AUA Vice President for Academic Affairs and Executive Dean of the Antigua Campus Dr. Jagbir Nagra went further, asking the future doctors to retain a sense of perspective. “Let humility be your constant companion as you move forward from success to success,” he urged.

AUA’s impending contribution to the U.S. is matched by its current contribution to the nation of Antigua and Barbuda. Dame Lovell took time in her speech to offer thanks on behalf of her country. “AUA College of Medicine has been an important partner of the government of Antigua and Barbuda,” said Lovell, “and the socio-economic development of our nation.” She also commended AUA’s scholarship program, which provides full tuition to qualified Antiguan and Barbudan citizens pursuing a medical education.

Riviere-Marcelin received one such scholarship. Not taking the blessings of education for granted, she urged her fellow graduates to continue in the spirit of inquiry they developed at AUA. “We must not rest on our laurels,” said Riviere-Marcelin. “We must not become complacent. To have graduated from medical school is not enough; medicine is a lifelong learning process, and if we continue to question uncertainties, our education will never end.”