Einstein Celebrates 62nd Commencement with Historic Virtual Ceremony

May 27, 2020—(BRONX, N.Y)—Yesterday, Albert Einstein College of Medicine celebrated the Class of 2020 by holding its first-ever virtual commencement ceremony. The event honored Einstein’s 202 graduating medical and graduate students and conferred them with their well-earned degrees.

Dean Gordon F. Tomaselli, M.D.

Dean Gordon F. Tomaselli, M.D.

“The fact that we cannot gather together in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic does not diminish our pride and respect for these remarkable physicians and scientists,” said Gordon Tomaselli, M.D., the Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean at Einstein and executive vice president and chief academic officer at Montefiore Medicine. “We applaud our graduates’ resilience and commitment to their patients and to their research during a truly extraordinary time.”

The event was streamed on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter and is now available for viewing.

After a welcome from Executive Dean Edward R. Burns, M.D., Philip O. Ozuah, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Montefiore, offered a message to the graduates, followed by remarks from the dean.

During the ceremony, Einstein conferred 170 M.D. degrees and 22 Ph.D. degrees. In addition, ten graduates of Einstein’s Medical Scientist Training Program received both an M.D. and a Ph.D. degree.

When the degrees were conferred, each graduate’s name was read by their respective program dean and appeared on screen, along with their photo, degree, residency program, or lab and thesis title.

Einstein Board of Trustees Chair Roger Einiger received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters during the ceremony.

While the ceremony was unconventional, the recent graduates were still able to appreciate their time at Einstein and celebrate their accomplishments. Many reflected on the dramatic changes brought by the pandemic, noting how it changed their final months of study and their outlook on their chosen profession.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world how important biomedical research is, and I am very proud to be graduating with such an impressive group of scientists,” said Alyssa Casill, Ph.D., who defended her thesis via Zoom in late March with an audience of more than 160 people from across the country. “While it wasn’t a typical defense, my mentors, Dr. Matthew Gamble and Dr. Charles Query, and lab mates were extremely valuable in helping me prepare. I will always be grateful for the collaborative atmosphere at Einstein.”

“It’s important to celebrate and recall the Class of 2020’s efforts and successes,” said Sebastian Placide, M.D., who will begin his internal medicine residency in July at Yale New Haven Hospital. “We must rejoice at the opportunity we've been given to heal others during a time when it is so desperately needed.”

Also, during the event, six alumni were honored with awards from Einstein’s Alumni Association:

  • Dominick P. Purpura Distinguished Alumnus Award: Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D.,’78, founding president, Child Mind Institute
  • Distinguished Alumna/Clinical Practitioner Award: Miriam Levy, M.D.,’79, assistant clinical professor of pathology and of molecular and cell-based medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai
  • Lifetime Service Award: Bruce H. Soloway, M.D., ’85, associate professor of family and social medicine, Einstein, and attending family physician, Montefiore
  • Distinguished Ph.D. Alumnus Award: Daniel E. Morse, Ph.D., ’67, research professor of molecular, cellular & developmental biology and distinguished professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular genetics, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Walter A. Orenstein, M.D., ’72, professor of medicine, of pediatrics, of global health, and of epidemiology, Emory University School of Medicine; associate director, Emory Vaccine Center
  • Einstein Honorary Alumna Award: Penny Steiner-Grossman, Ed.D., M.P.H., associate professor of family and social medicine and of pediatrics, Einstein

We applaud our graduates' resilience and commitment to their patients and to their research during a truly extraordinary time.

Dean Gordon F. Tomaselli, M.D.

The graduation ceremony also honored several Einstein faculty members for teaching or research excellence:

  • Samuel M. Rosen Award for Outstanding Teaching (Pre-Clerkship): Priti Marshall, M.D., associate professor of anatomy and structural biology and of ophthalmology and visual sciences at Einstein
  • Samuel M. Rosen Award for Outstanding Teaching (Clinical): Edward Chao, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at Einstein, attending surgeon at Jacobi Medical Center
  • Harry Eagle Award for Outstanding Pre-Clerkship Teaching: Eric J. Epstein, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Einstein
  • Harry H. Gordon Award for Outstanding Clinical Teaching: Amanda C. Raff, M.D., ’98, professor of medicine and associate chair for undergraduate medical education at Einstein and nephrologist at Montefiore.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching: Harris Goldstein, M.D., ’80, associate dean for scientific resources, professor of pediatrics and of microbiology & immunology, and Charles Michael Chair in Autoimmune Diseases at Einstein
  • Saul R. Korey Award in Translational Science and Medicine: Ulrich Steidl, M.D., Ph.D., professor of cell biology and the Diane and Arthur B. Belfer Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research
  • LaDonne H. Schulman Award for Excellence in Teaching: Meelad Dawlaty, Ph.D., assistant professor of genetics at Einstein