2022 Commencement a Return to an In-Person Celebration

May 13, 2022
Three women stand in graduation gowns with their arms over each other's shoulders

The 612 graduating students in the Class of 2022 – the largest in the MGH Institute’s 45-year history – were lauded for embracing new ways of learning and innovating during a time of uncertainty due to the pandemic. Several people also were recognized at the May 13 event for their contributions to the school.

By John Shaw
Office of Strategic Communications

Classmate hugs, group photos, tassels turned on mortar boards, the graduate recessional into the tunnel of faculty, and loud applause. The pomp and circumstance finally returned when the MGH Institute of Health Professions held its 2022 Commencement in-person for the first time in three years. 

a student smiles as she accepts her diploma from a man in graduation robes

Saskia La-nushka Simone Darnley​​​​​​​, OTD '22 walks across the stage.

The Institute’s 42nd commencement ceremony was held May 13 in front of 3,000 family, friends, faculty and staff inside the Boston Convention and Exposition Center; the in-person celebration a welcome return after the pandemic forced the 2020 and 2021 events to be held virtually. Although masks were mandated for entry, it didn’t dampen the spirits of these who were there. 

“I can’t be more pleased to be here with you today to celebrate this momentous occasion,” President Paula Milone-Nuzzo told the audience. “I know I speak for the faculty, the staff, and the Trustees when I say it is so wonderful to be with you today, in person, to celebrate the amazing Class of 2022.”

The 612 graduates made up the largest class in the school’s 45-year history, and pushed the total number of alumni above the 10,000-mark. The ceremony saw the first degree granted in two new programs: the PhD in Health Professions Education and post-professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy.

Dr. Milone-Nuzzo lauded the new graduates for their perseverance over the past 26 months of the pandemic and remaining focused in pursuing their education during a time of incredible uncertainty.

“Throughout all this, you have been extraordinary,” she said, noting that the school’s faculty didn’t skip a beat in transitioning to virtual teaching. “You have embraced new ways of learning. In the face of adversity, you have innovated and developed supports for those in need in our communities. You have inspired us by showing the true IHP spirit of leadership. The lessons learned in adapting during this time will serve you well in the future as a health care professional.”

Dr. David Brown, the new president of Massachusetts General Hospital, spoke of how the MGH Institute continues to be a vital part at the hospital. 

“As IHP graduates, you are a critical part of our collective future and a proud part of the MGH legacy,” he said, a reference to the Institute being launched at the same time the hospital was closing its former 100-year-old diploma nursing school in the early 1980s. “I ask that you never lose sight of our common commitment to each other:  remembering that our patients are, first and foremost, people just like us. Treat each and every one of them as if they were a member of your own family. Apply your professional expertise with healthy doses of compassion for their worries and concerns. Make your human touch the mark of highest distinction in your professional careers.”

Ashley stands at a podium in her cap and gown
Ashley Victor, SLP '22, delivers the keynote address.

Ashley Victor, who earned a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology degree, spoke about the intersectionality of rest and health during her keynote address. “When we show up in the world well-rested, we show up fully and authentically as our best selves,” said Victor, a first-generation student whose parents are from Haiti. “We allow others to see that we are more than just what we can accomplish and that gives them the courage to believe that of themselves. You are worthy because you are you, not because of what you have done.”

Victor outlined four phases of how to incorporate rest into peoples’ lives: shock and denial, guilt, bargaining, and acceptance. “Through this pandemic, we have seen healthcare providers be worked to the brink. For our patients, rest is considered healing, but that is also true for us. We cannot truly serve our patients until we serve ourselves,” she said.

“So many of us move through our lives overworked, tired, and restless,” she added. “It is my hope that we can become more diligent in our pursuit of a work-life balance. As you prepare to leave here and celebrate your accomplishments, find ways to take a break and appreciate how far you’ve come. We have to rest, and we have to do it often.”

The event also featured several people who were recognized for their contributions to the Institute.

  • Dr. Peter Slavin, president of Massachusetts General Hospital from 2003 – 2021, received an honorary Doctor of Science for his work as a renowned physician, scientist, educator, health care leader, and philanthropist, and for his consistent belief and commitment to the mission of the MGH Institute and its role as a leading force in both higher education and health care.
  • Dr. Alex F. Johnson, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs from 2008 – 2022, was named Provost Emeritus for his successful work in changing the Institute into a nationally recognized health professions college. His accomplishments included creating three new schools, expanding and adding new programs, and launching a robust research initiative – all of which doubled the student population during his tenure.
  • Dr. Mary Evenson, a Professor of occupational therapy, was named Professor Emeritus.
  • Naseem Challawala, PT, DPT ’07, MSPT ’04, received the Bette Ann Harris Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor given to an alumnus. Dr. Challawala, owner of Rehab Health 360 that provides physical therapy for clients with neurological disorders, has been instrumental in developing the vestibular task force at Spaulding Rehabilitation Network and the neuro and concussion program at the Clough Family Center for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies at Emerson Hospital.
  • Harrison Keyes, MPAS ’18, received the Emerging Leader Award, given to an alumnus within the first 10 years of their graduation. He has held several positions at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, and currently is interim medical director at the non-profit’s Jean Yawkey Place homeless shelter.

Before the 2022 graduates left the Convention Center through the traditional recessional tunnel of faculty, President Milone-Nuzzo told graduates they are the future of healthcare and challenged graduates to improve the world while paying close attention to the country’s racial, health, and economic inequalities. 

“You can contribute to the solutions of these systemic problems by continuing your commitment to act against racism, standing up for social justice and equality, and fighting for those who have experienced oppression and marginalization based on the color of their skin,” she said. “Your role in the fight for equity is more important than ever, and now the hard work begins.”

a group of students stands together with their caps and gowns on
MSN '22 Graduates