May 26-27 offered double the joy, squared: Members of the DMU Class of 2022 and their loved ones celebrated graduation, alumni with “milestone” class years toured campus and traded tales of their student days, and everyone enjoyed the festivities in person for the first time since 2019. United in pride for their alma mater and their own achievements, both grads and reunion alumni marched together in the University’s 122nd commencement ceremony on May 27.
“Congratulations to members of the DMU Class of 2022, who, after much hard work and perseverance, are ready to help protect and improve the health of individuals, communities and populations,” said DMU President and CEO Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D., at the ceremony. “After these many months and years of planning and preparing for the next exam, the next lab, the next clinical rotation and even the next wave of the coronavirus, please enjoy living in this moment. You have earned it.”
Continuing a tradition started in 1899, the College of Osteopathic Medicine awarded the doctor of osteopathic medicine degree to 246 graduates. The college also conferred the master of science in anatomy and master of science in biomedical sciences degrees to 25 graduates. The College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery awarded the doctor of podiatric medicine degree to 48 graduates. The College of Health Sciences recognized 148 graduates from four programs — doctor of physical therapy, master of science in physician assistant studies, master of public health and master of health care administration. Some students earned dual degrees.
Members of the reunion classes of 1981, 1980, 1972, 1971, 1970 and earlier years welcomed 442 new members to the DMU Alumni Association with the graduating class. On May 26, they also honored the 2021 Alumni of the Year and the inaugural recipient of the University’s new Rising Star Award, which recognizes graduates of the past 15 or fewer years for professional achievement and service. The Alumni of the Year for 2021 are R. Paul Groben, D.O.’75, College of Osteopathic Medicine; Jill Frerichs, D.P.M.’01, FACFAS, College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery; and Yogesh Shah, M.D., M.P.H.’13, FAAFM, College of Health Sciences. Jennifer Kendall, D.O.’07, received the 2021 Rising Star Award.
“Recipients of these alumni awards personify the mission of Des Moines University with their achievements, contributions, leadership and service,” said Jami Haberl, M.P.H.’03, M.H.A.’03, president of the DMU Alumni Board, at the May 26 event. “Their commitment to patients, their professions and communities represents the very best aspects of a DMU education in action.”
Other alumni “celebrities” during the festivities included James Grekin, D.O.’62, a retired internist and past chair of the DMU Board of Trustees who served as grand marshal during commencement, and Richard Pitts, D.O.’73, Ph.D., who gave the keynote address. He is the chief medical officer for Cal Optima, Orange County’s largest health insurer that works to provide more than 900,000 Californians with access to high-quality, compassionate health care services. Both Grekin and Pitts are past Alumni of the Year of the College of Osteopathic Medicine.
In his keynote, Pitts reflected on what “really matters” during the time since he graduated from DMU, including approximately 140,000 patient encounters, 200 babies delivered and being with about 2,500 people at their time of passing. “But the real amazing thing for me has been the opportunity to enhance the health care of over three million people during my time in health care leadership roles,” he said.
He shared lessons he learned from his career, including the importance of building trust to develop credibility, preparing for the worst during potential crises, taking “swift, clear and demonstrable action” in times of danger, staying focused and training oneself and one’s team.
“Nearly all that you will do in health care will require teamwork,” he said. “Train well, train often, and in an emergency, you will default to your training, whether it be in patient care or in an administrative role.”
At a post-commencement “bon voyage” lunch for the reunion alumni, Grady Carter, D.O.’72, raised a toast of gratitude to University leaders and staff for the days’ events and honored deceased members of his class. He also praised his osteopathic peers, whom he said “were at the vanguard of change in the medical community at large.” Prior to 1972, he noted, many states did not recognize osteopathic physicians at the same level as allopathic physicians.
“With the acceptance of osteopathic physicians by the United States military, the allopathic community could no longer deny that the osteopathic medical degree was equivalent to their allopathic medical degree. Thus, the collective osteopathic medical graduates of 1972 were truly trailblazers,” he said. “It was left to us to prove that we could stand toe to toe with our allopathic colleagues and deliver quality patient care. We were the ones who solidified the medical credibility base upon which our subsequent osteopathic colleagues have had the opportunity to practice anywhere in America.”