Clear skies and moderate temperatures set the backdrop on the Anschutz Medical Campus May 27 as more than 600 students stepped up to receive their diplomas in health and medical disciplines. A collective commencement ceremony in the Boettcher Commons (formerly Education Quad) started the day. Then individual schools and program-specific groups were dispersed across the campus.
Here are just a few of the stories of these successful students:
School of Pharmacy graduate Asia Puszkas’ family is from Poland, and she learned English from old movies and actors such as John Wayne and Starsky and Hutch, and thought cowboys and Indians still roamed the plains. The family left Poland and ended up in a refugee camp outside of Rome and eventually were sponsored by a church in South Dakota. She was two at the time.
In the third grade Puszkas’ school suggested holding her back a year. So, to motivate her, Asia’s mother paid her daughter a penny for every page she read. “Something clicked. I found that I really enjoyed reading and I didn’t like the idea of not being in the same grade as my friends,” Puszka said.
Then in 1998 her family was again uprooted and ended in Colorado where she thrived and developed an interest in science and healthcare. Her mother put her in touch with a Safeway pharmacist whose husband was the pharmacy director for The Children’s Hospital. “I didn’t know very much about the profession and assumed that pharmacy meant standing behind a counter counting pills.” So, she shadowed a PICU pharmacist at the hospital. “That was a turning point for me. I saw that pharmacists play a pivotal role in patient care. After that experience, I decided that pharmacy was for me.”
For the last four years, Nicole Moore merged pharmacy school with being a Denver Broncos cheerleader. Ten hours a week of practice; Sunday, Monday and Saturday games; along with the extreme load of pharmacy school has, as Moore says, "been a bit of a juggling act."
With Sunday games and tests on Mondays, Moore learned to study on the go, on a treadmill and during breaks in practice. She even had to learn that there's a time not to study. "I found that you can overwhelm yourself with pharmacy school and let it run your life or let yourself have an outlet. Practice and the games were my 'time out' from studying." Cheerleading helped Moore refocus and re-energize. Then after the games she'd "reset" and be ready to study again.
Prior to dental school, Matt Mauck played three years in the National Football League (NFL) -- one year for the Broncos. He was a late-round flyer whom Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos wanted to see if they could develop as a backup for Jake Plummer. After graduation he will be joining the practice that is the team dentist for the Denver Broncos.
Originally from Kuala Lumpur, Cher Li Ang emigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was eight. Ang said that she was attracted to the nursing profession after being hospitalized as a young teen and attended to by very caring nurses. She was impressed with their skills and their sincerity and the idea of helping people stuck with her. She commented that the nursing program has been challenging but said, “As long as you try very hard you’ll come out with a good outcome.” One thing she has found interesting during the BS nursing program is that while all of her peers are smart and dedicated, she found that they all take different approaches to the nursing program. Ang is looking for nursing positions at University of Colorado Hospital and The Children’s Hospital.
Kelsey Hurley Walker is keeping it ‘all in the family’ as a fourth-generation CU School of Medicine graduate. It all started with her great-grandfather who graduated in 1918. She and her husband Ely Walker, also graduating this month, will enter family medicine and hope to practice in rural Colorado after their residencies.
Brothers Ricky and Jamie Dhaliwal graduate together despite their three-year age difference. Ricky is the first med student to graduate simultaneously with a law degree from CU Boulder. Jamie and Ely Walker are the first students to graduate simultaneously with medical and public health degrees. The brothers are both going into emergency medicine.
Jeunesse Grenoble credits a month-long family car trip from Colorado to Honduras when she was in sixth grade for her interest in the School of Medicine’s Global Health Track. She plans to practice OB/Gyn.
Lauren Torso, MPH epidemiology graduate, was accepted into a competitive, national two-year applied epidemiology fellowship program sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Council on State and Territorial Epidemiologists. She will be placed at the Pennsylvania health department in the Healthcare Associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance section later this summer.
See photos for Colorado School of Public Health Convocation and Commencement.