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Catalysts of Change: Celebrating UR Nursing's Class of 2023

  By Gianluca D'Elia
  Monday, May 15, 2023

In the course of a nursing career, it’s possible to reinvent oneself many times.

That’s what University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) CEO Mark Taubman, MD told more than 240 graduates at the School of Nursing’s Spring 2023 graduation ceremony before they received their diplomas at the Eastman Theatre’s Kodak Hall on May 12. 

“In the case of nursing, we have seen a veritable explosion of options in the past decade,” Taubman said. “This graduation is perhaps the best example of this, in that many of you are getting your second, or even third degree.”

Taubman’s message of self-reinvention rings true for the Class of 2023, as many of them prepare to advance as nurse practitioners, educators, and leaders. Bachelor’s students, many of whom changed careers to nursing from other fields, will soon be starting their first jobs as registered nurses. 

“We are uniquely positioned to affect the lives of our patients and their loved ones in their most vulnerable times,” said graduate speaker Javauni Forrest ’18N, ’23N (MS), a graduate of the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program who is pursuing his Doctor of Nursing Practice.

“Use that privilege to not only embrace your students, employees, and patients for all that they are, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation, but to imbue them with the understanding that they are valued and worthwhile simply because they are.”

As graduates prepare to start new chapters in a broad range of roles, School of Nursing Dean Lisa Kitko, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN said it’s a reminder of how founding dean Loretta C. Ford’s vision for the nursing profession has become a reality. More than 50 years ago, Ford and pediatrician Henry Silver originated the nurse practitioner position, sparking new possibilities for nurses’ roles in health care. 

“Dr. Ford recognized the opportunities for nurses to play a key role in providing patient-centered care,” Kitko said. “Her willingness to challenge the status quo and mobilize support across health care paved the way for the advancement of the nursing profession.

“You have an opportunity to think creatively, ask tough questions, and draw upon your experiences to discover new solutions that will change patient care as we know it.”

In his keynote address, UR Medicine Chief Digital Health Officer Michael Hasselberg ’07N (MS), ’13N (PhD) reflected on the spirit of technology innovation that has been the hallmark of Rochester's history from Eastman Kodak's pioneering work in digital imaging, to the University of Rochester Medical Center's digital reimagining of health care to advance equity for people of all walks of life. 

“Be bold, dream big, and let your passion for nursing be the catalyst of change,” he told graduates. “May you push the boundaries of what is possible. That is the Rochester way.”

Many nursing graduates started their journeys into health care careers when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its worst. Hasselberg recognized the courage and commitment of nurses who followed their calling to care for others through challenging times.

“We can’t ignore the context of celebrating your achievements: COVID upended life as we know it, and few have been as deeply impacted as nurses,” Hasselberg said. “It was our inpatient nurses who shared iPads so patients could speak with family. It was nurse practitioners who launched telehealth in a matter of days to reach those in rural and urban areas.”

Toward the end of the ceremony, School of Nursing Instructor of Clinical Nursing Kristina Santory ’06, ’14W (MS) received the annual Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Student nominators praised Santory, who is also a registered nurse in URMC’s Cardiac Catheterization Lab, as a “beacon of advocacy” who prioritizes students’ wellness and goes above and beyond to help them succeed.

This year also marked a significant milestone for Taubman, who celebrated his last graduation ceremonies as dean of the School of Medicine & Dentistry and CEO of URMC after announcing in September that he will step down from his role.

Kitko shared her gratitude for Taubman’s leadership and collaborative spirit.

“Dr. Taubman has been a true partner in advancing the health of our community,” Kitko said. “Thanks to Dr. Taubman's commitment, we have been able to work together to better prepare a new generation of health care professionals.”

Taubman reminded the Class of 2023 that the future of health care is bright, thanks to them.

“We have given you the foundation to make a difference in how health care is delivered in the 21st century,” Taubman said at the SON’s ceremony. “As you move forward in your careers, you will have the satisfaction of shaping how we deliver health care – true to the University’s motto – Meliora – to something Ever Better… When I look at our graduates, I know we are in great hands.”

Relive the best moments of Commencement Weekend by watching the broadcast here, and by checking out our Instagram and Facebook for more pictures and videos.

Categories: Outcomes, Alumni

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