Alumnus delivers keynote speech at WVSOM graduation

Along with the pomp and circumstance, the green and black regalia, the gold tassels hanging from caps and the exuberance and pride of family members and friends, graduates in the Class of 2019 waited in anticipation of the moment that they would walk across the stage and receive their Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degrees from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM).

This year’s graduating class was the largest in WVSOM’s history, with 199 medical students participating in the school’s 42nd annual commencement ceremony on May 25.

Christopher “Dino” Beckett, D.O., Class of 2000, delivered the keynote speech to graduates, their families and friends, and WVSOM faculty and guests. He discussed his journey practicing family medicine in southern West Virginia for more than 16 years. After returning to his hometown of Williamson, W.Va., upon completing his residency, Beckett opened a family practice and offered a monthly free clinic for patients who had little or no insurance. This led to the transition of his practice to a Federally Qualified Health Center called the Williamson Health & Wellness Center. His work for his community eventually led to a farmer’s market, community garden and mobile produce truck.

“I’m here today not just to tell you about the things that I’ve done, but how my education at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine has been essential to the success that I’ve experienced,” he said. “The foundation of osteopathic principles and passion for community have been a part of the very fabric of my story. When you leave here you will have the skills and tools to be a successful physician. It is up to you how to use them.”

His advice to graduates was to be bold and to not be afraid to make mistakes, because they are opportunities to learn.  

“Your successes are not final and your failures are not defining,” he shared. “It is your discovered inner strength that will guide you forward.”

Before concluding his speech, Beckett reminisced about the last time he spoke at WVSOM, during his graduation speech as class president. With the ceremony taking place outside and uncovered, rain poured throughout the ceremony.

“What that reminded me of were words John Kennedy spoke when visiting West Virginia. He said, ‘The sun may not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do.’ As you leave here, I hope you, too, will continue to shine. The mountains and people of this great state are now part of you as you are them. Go forward and become mountains in your community,” he said.

Class of 2019 President Nicholas Rawson reflected on the past four years during the class address, noting the perseverance and compassion of his classmates.

“Survival is exactly what medical school entails. The curriculum is demanding, the expectation for extracurriculars is high and there is always the looming specter of a board exam and residency any time you close your eyes,” he said. “It takes blood, sweat and tears.”

He said that the world doesn’t stop turning while students are in medical school, but that the Class of 2019 still managed to shine in times of crisis.

“Whether it was a signed card, kind words or hanging a banner so that a woman who we never met, several hundred miles away, would know that we were rooting for her,” he said, “we pulled together any way we could. This is what makes this class stand out. This is what makes me proud to be counted in our number. This is our class personality, if there is such a thing. Our compassion for one another and our patients is one of our greatest assets.”

Rawson also reminded classmates of the tireless work they performed in response to the historic flooding in southern West Virginia in 2016, when the group was in their second year of medical school.

“Never let anyone tell you that this group of doctors is afraid to get their hands dirty,” he said, speaking of classmates trudging in mud, dirt and debris to help the community.

This was the first commencement ceremony as WVSOM’s president for James W. Nemitz, Ph.D. He said he was honored to confer the graduates’ degrees in his new institutional role. He also shared the four characteristics he thinks define a physician.

“Quality, excellence, commitment and caring — that’s what makes an excellent osteopathic physician, and we expect no less from each of you,” he said to the graduates. “You will have patients’ lives in your hands. That is an awesome responsibility, and I know you are well prepared for that role.”

Nemitz and Craig Boisvert, D.O., FACOFP, vice president for academic affairs and dean, led the ceremony and awarded the degrees. The WVSOM Board of Governors Chair Charles Davis, D.O.; WVSOM Alumni Association President Robert Olexo, D.O.; and the President of the West Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association Arthur Rubin, D.O.; provided brief messages to guests.

The ceremony concluded with graduates reciting the osteopathic oath, which officially acknowledges their transition from student to physician.

Date Added: 
Monday, June 3, 2019