DMU Class of 2024 graduates pose for a photo.

Des Moines University Adds 400-Plus Grads to the Health Care Workforce

Des Moines University Medicine and Health Sciences awarded graduate degrees in medicine and the health sciences to more than 400 new health professionals on May 24, 2024, at its 124th annual Commencement ceremony.

The event celebrated the numerous achievements of the DMU Class of 2024, including the many dual degrees students earned and the various honor cords they wore. A standout moment of the ceremony was a flawless rendition of the national anthem performed by Brenna Ryan, D.O.’24, M.H.A.’24.

Given that most of the graduates were completing undergraduate degrees or just beginning their time as DMU students during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony was especially poignant and joyous.

DMU President and CEO Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D., speaks at the 2024 Commencement ceremony.

“You know the future will present challenges, uncertainties and hardships because you lived it, including during a worldwide pandemic. Yet you held fast to your goal of becoming medical and health sciences professionals,” DMU President and CEO Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D., said in her commencement address. “You have chosen to step up to careers of service, knowing you will need to advocate for your patients, discover new scientific knowledge, help make communities and populations healthier and find ways to improve our nation’s health care system.

“You may need to respond to future pandemics and defend the science upon which your field and practice are founded. But I know you can and will rise to these and many other challenges, given the resilience, determination and dedication you demonstrated throughout your DMU education,” she added. “Be the excellent health professionals and leaders our world needs more than ever.”

Keynote Speaker: “Do What Is Right”

The graduates were encouraged to follow their own vision and “block out the noise” by keynote speaker Omar Lateef, D.O.’99, president and CEO of RUSH University Medical Center, RUSH University, RUSH Oak Park Hospital, RUSH Copley Medical Center and RUSH Health in Chicago.

“Each of you is going to enter some form of a health care system that is profoundly in need of innovation, ingenuity and most importantly, courage,” he said. “Doing what is right cannot be wrong, but it is surprisingly challenging in health care.”

Keynote speaker Omar Lateef, D.O.'99, addresses the crowd at the 2024 Commencement ceremony.

Lateef reflected on the challenges of doing the right thing in health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, which included serving underserved patients and communities in Chicago. Under his leadership, RUSH University Medical Center decided to make fighting inequities one of the pillars of its charter. Its early COVID-19 innovations set the standard for care nationally through the deployment of early testing, an intentional focus on critically ill patients from communities hardest hit by the pandemic and clinical advancements in treatment protocols. Doing the right thing came at a financial cost, he said, but RUSH was praised nationally for its efforts to save lives, including by President Joe Biden. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot awarded RUSH her office’s Medal of Honor in recognition of the organization’s extraordinary contributions to the city during the pandemic.

“There was nothing magical about the health care we were providing. It was something magical about providing it,” he said. “Health care is a calling. It is a human right. Let that be your true north as you make your mark in this world.”

After Lateef’s talk, DMU conferred upon him the honorary degree, Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa.

“Dr. Lateef is an outstanding health leader who embodies and practices a compassionate, holistic and people-centered approach to enhance our quality of life,” Franklin said.

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