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Health Sciences Graduates Take New Oath to Their Profession

Health sciences graduates celebrate their achievement at a white coat ceremony during commencement. photo by Adena Stevens

When Elina Rozentsvayg, a graduate of the M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology, donned her white coat at the Katz School’s health sciences ceremony on May 15, she thought of the sacrifices her family had made for her education and how her life had gained renewed purpose.

“I’m the first person in my family to get my master’s degree so it also symbolized that very unique achievement and, of course, a promise to do right by all my future patients and to make a positive difference in the field of speech-language pathology,” said Rozentsvayg, who received the Academic Key of Excellence Award for scholastic achievement.

She was one of 64 students from both the M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) and Occupational Therapy Doctorate who graduated with their classmates in the Katz School’s main commencement exercises and then congregated afterward to celebrate at their own special white coat and pinning ceremonies.

In her address to the graduates, Dr. Marissa Barrera, assistant dean of health sciences and director of the medical SLP program, said, “By wearing your white coat, you are making a promise to yourself, your profession, your patients and to humanity that you will have integrity in everything that you do.”

Dr. Zesarae Bodie, clinical associate professor in occupational therapy, delivered remarks to the inaugural class of OT Doctorate graduates.

“I hope you all take today to reflect on your accomplishments across the eight semesters you had with us,” said Dr. Bodie. “Set new goals for yourself so you can use the skills you mastered in the program to propel you to your next adventure. I hope you continue to be lifelong learners and maintain a sense of curiosity to meet the needs of society and further advance our profession.”

Occupational therapy (OT) graduate programs typically celebrate a student’s transition from the classroom to clinical practice in one of two ways—a white coat ceremony and a pinning ceremony. The pins that OT Doctorate students received were emblazoned with the name of each graduate and the academic degree.

“To celebrate the tremendous accomplishments of our inaugural class of OT scholar-practitioners, we melded the two traditions,” said Dr. Mindy Garfinkel, interim director of the Occupational Therapy Doctorate program. “This pin may be worn in clinical practice to acknowledge the student’s new status as a practitioner.”

OT Doctorate graduates Dr. Harlee Feldman, Dr. Miriam Graham, Dr. Avani Patel and Dr. Deena Motechin each received an Academic Achievement Award for completing the program with a GPA over 3.85. SLP graduates Avital Weitzner and Molly Hampton received the Advocacy Award for exceptional leadership and Clinical Key of Excellence for clinical success, respectively. In addition, the OT Doctorate bestowed honors on the following graduates: Dr. Rinu Abraham, Clinical Excellence Award; Dr. Noah Frydman, Scholarship-Practitioner Award; Dr. Julietta Gurgova, Service Award; and Dr. Yoheved Zion, Leadership Award.

The SLP program also honored the following individuals “who skillfully trained, inspired and created a progressive learning environment, demonstrating leadership to the faculty, students, clinical staff, patients and their families”: Arnell Brady, Excellence in Clinical Supervision; Rita Rosenman, SLP clinical supervisor, Faculty Supervisor of the Year; Speech, Language and Educational Associates (SLEA), Excellence in Clinical Education; and Felix Tabenshlak of Ahava Medical, Preceptor Award.

Dr. Paul Russo, dean of the Katz School and vice provost at Yeshiva University, praised the graduates for their caring and compassion, and their creativity in devising policies, protocols and diagnostics that are improving the quality of patients’ lives.

“You are compassionate practitioners using your know-how in science and health to transform our world for the better,” he said. “Congratulations on representing your professions with distinction and honor.”