Medical students in Illinois graduate early amid pandemic


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The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois has allowed medical students to graduate early as the pressing need for healthcare workers has increased amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Graduates could start their residency programs early, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“When we saw the way the pandemic was affecting the nation, we asked how we could provide physicians to the workforce as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Mark Rosenblatt, executive dean of the college. “And when you look at the type of students we have and why they went to med school in the first place, it’s to help people.”

Earlier this month, Shivam Vedak marked his early graduation from the College of Medicine on a Zoom call. He and a cohort of the 191 graduates pledged to dedicate their lives to the service of humanity.

“I’ve never felt so validated in my decision to become a physician,” Vedak said.

Graduating students also had to find out where they were accepted for their residencies online, which is referred to as Match Day. It is usually a day of celebration with family and peers. Some students were even removed from their clinical rotations due to health concerns.

Rosenblatt said it didn’t surprise him that two-thirds of the graduate class decided to commence early. Jonathan Lee is one of those students.

“Rarely in life do you know 100% what the right thing is to do,” Lee said. “I was locked in on medicine (as a career), so what better time would there be for working on the front lines as a physician?”

Stephanie Turcios was heartbroken that she couldn’t celebrate her accomplishment with her loved ones. But she still was able to pop champagne in her family’s backyard, making sure to stand far apart.

“It was a little piece of joy in this time,” Turcios said. “It’s a day for my family as much as it is for me.”