The 596 graduating students in the Class of 2023 were lauded for persevering through the coronavirus pandemic while embracing new ways of providing patient care.
It was only fitting that MGH Institute of Health Professions’ 2023 Commencement coincided with the country’s lifting of the Covid-19 public health emergency.
After all, the coronavirus pandemic caused students in the three-year doctoral programs in nursing, occupational therapy, and physical therapy to pivot from in-person to online just a few months after beginning their respective program. But, having seen the beginning and the end of the world’s worst health crisis in a century, the school’s 596 graduates are more prepared than ever to embrace the challenge of leading new ways of patient care.
“These past three years have taught us countless lessons about academia, our professions, ourselves, and what we want our futures to look like,” said Doctor of Physical Therapy graduate Alina Shirley, who was the keynote speaker at the morning ceremony for graduates in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and School of Healthcare Leadership. “Our educators told us … that the challenges we faced would turn us into the most resilient healthcare professionals of our time.”
Added Isabelle Rae Girard, a Master of Science in Nursing graduate who was the School of Nursing’s keynote speaker during the afternoon ceremony, “I would like to take a moment to share a round of applause with my fellow graduates - and the incredible staff at the Institute who have guided us - for the care we have all provided during the height of the global pandemic.”
President Paula Milone-Nuzzo, PhD, RN, FHHC, FAAN, echoed those feelings during her introductory remarks given to more than 3,000 students, family, friends and MGH Institute staffers who celebrated the graduates in the Class of 2023 during the school’s 43rd Commencement ceremony, held at the Boston Convention and Exposition Center.
“Your graduation comes with the recognition of knowing your studies occurred at the most challenging time most of us have ever experienced in our lives,” said Dr. Milone-Nuzzo. "Throughout all this, you have been extraordinary. You have embraced new ways of learning. In the face of adversity, you have innovated, developing 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 professional.”
Michael Sullivan, PT, DPT ’02, MBA, Director of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy at Massachusetts General Hospital, spoke at the morning ceremony where students in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences programs (Genetic Counseling, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant Studies, Rehabilitation Sciences, and Speech-Language Pathology) and School of Healthcare Leadership (Health Professions Education) were in attendance. It included the inaugural 14 graduates in the Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology program.
Dr. Sullivan spoke of the connection between the hospital and the IHP, which began 46 years ago when its first students held classes in the old Ruth Sleeper Hall.
“Like the bonds that exist within a family, we share a commitment to excellence in patient care, creating and applying clinical evidence, and a dedication to make health care more equitable and accessible for the patients and communities we serve,” he said. “Together, the MGH and the Institute continue to enhance our educational mission, prioritizing interprofessional, team-based training as a shared commitment that will fundamentally define the essence of excellence in health care. As graduates of the Institute, you are not only a proud part of the MGH legacy, but you are also critical to our collective future that includes the responsibility to teach and learn together, across all professions, so that individually and collectively we better serve our patients and clients.”
The afternoon ceremony featured David F.M. Brown, MD, President of Massachusetts General Hospital, who spoke to School of Nursing graduates in the bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate programs.
“Today marks either the first step in what I hope you will find to be a long, successful and fulfilling career in health care – or a stepping-stone in your continued education journey,” he said. “The skills and knowledge you gained here at IHP – thanks to your hard work and with the steady support of the Institute’s faculty, staff, and employees – has provided you with the solid foundation needed to build a fulfilling future. We look forward to watching as you branch out and continue to grow and achieve your dreams. It is an exciting time and I hope that you enjoy every minute of it.”
Nursing Dean Dr. Kenneth White reminded the attendees that 2023 is the 150th anniversary year of continuous nursing education sponsored by Mass General, referring to the hospital’s former diploma school that predated the founding of the MGH Institute.
Two alumni were recognized for their excellence.
Angela Patterson, DNP, FNP-BC, NEA-BC, FAANP, who graduated in 2016 from the executive track of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, received the Bette Ann Harris Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor given to an alumnus. Dr. Patterson is Vice President at CVS Health, and Chief Nurse Practitioner Officer of Retail Health for the national store chain, where she provides clinical and professional practice governance for more than 3,500 nurse practitioners, physician associates, ancillary nursing staff and behavioral health therapists who staff MinuteClinic’s more than 1,100 retail health clinics that are located in 36 states and the District of Columbia.
Valerie Rucker-Bussie, PT, DPT, NCS, who graduated in 2018 with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, received the Emerging Leader Alumni Award. She is a staff physical therapist at Capitol Physical Therapy in Washington, D.C., runs her own practice called Priority One Wellness, LLC where she combines her physical therapy background with her skills as a certified Reiki practitioner and yoga teacher, and is the co-founder and co-chair of the American Physical Therapy Association’s District of Columbia Chapter’s Health Equity and Anti-Racism Team.
Four faculty who are retiring were awarded emeritus status:
- Susan Fasoli, ScD, OTR/L, Professor Emerita of Occupational Therapy,
- Charles Haynes, EdD, CCC-SLP, Professor Emeritus of Communication Sciences and Disorders,
- Mary Hildebrand, OTD, OTR/L, Associate Professor Emerita of Occupational Therapy, and
- Mary Knab, PhD, DPT, Associate Professor Emerita of Physical Therapy.
Gayun Chan-Smutko, Associate Professor of Genetic Counseling, was recognized for receiving the Nancy T. Watts Award for Teaching Excellence at the start of the 2022-2023 academic year.