The title Doctor of Medicine was conferred upon 202 international students who have successfully passed their final exams at the Faculty of Medicine. The graduation ceremony took place at the NET building of Semmelweis University, where rector Dr. Béla Merkely and dean Dr. Miklós Kellermayer congratulated the newly conferred doctors.

During the graduation ceremony of the Faculty of Medicine for students completing the English and German-language programmes – which was held separately due to the restrictions on events in place resulting from the current pandemic situation – the title of Doctor of Medicine was conferred upon 202 international medical students, out of whom 124 finished the English-language programme and 78 the German-language programme. The graduating international medical students come from 34 different countries.

The ceremonial session of the Senate, during the course of which graduating doctors received their diplomas, was opened by the rector of Semmelweis University. In his speech, Dr. Béla Merkely noted that Semmelweis University is closing a historical and memorable academic year, as it was completed under an extraordinary state of epidemic emergency. “You have performed well under these circumstances, as did our alma mater,” he declared. He recalled the university’s actions during the pandemic, including its leading of the representative coronavirus screening program H-UNCOVER, as well as the successful transitioning of instruction to an online platform, all while continuing patient care activities at a constantly high level. Dr. Merkely praised the fresh graduates for staying true to the university’s historical achievements and traditions by following the call of their profession even in these turbulent times, making the necessary sacrifices and completing the required practices, including with volunteer work in their home countries, and passing exams even under these extraordinary circumstances.

Rector Merkely noted that in this special 250th anniversary year of the university, he considers the reforming the curriculum of the Hungarian, English, and German-language medical training programs to be one of the most significant events. “Our main objective is to train medical doctors and health care professionals who are patient-oriented, able to treat not just the illness but the patient as well, and who have increasing practical skills,” he pointed out, adding that the curriculum reform may serve as an example for the renewal and modernization of the entire system of medical training in Hungary, as well as help Semmelweis University reach its goal of becoming one of the top 100 universities in the world, and among the top five within its field in Europe.

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The rector noted that the fresh graduates have demonstrated that they possess the abilities and skills required of medical professionals, such as reacting quickly and standing firm in extraordinary situations and among changing circumstances. “Be always open to new things, never lose your curiosity, always consider people in the course of practicing your profession, and serve the healing of your fellow human beings in accordance with your oath,” the rector advised the graduating class. He told them to be proud Semmelweis graduates, and to remain members of the Semmelweis Community through the alumni network, or even by practicing the medical profession in Hungary. “I hope that we were able to pass on to you not just the knowledge about the sciences and healing, but a love for our country as well, and thus you will be become our number one ‘ambassadors’ when you return to your home countries,” said Dr. Merkely.

Fatima Zulqarnain and Franz-Josef Vogl, candidates of Doctor of Medicine, submitted the conferment request in English and German, after which students took their solemn oath in the two languages, promising to fulfill all aspects of their duties with utmost diligence. Following the oath, rector Dr. Béla Merkely invited dean Dr. Miklós Kellermayer to confer upon the graduating students the degree of Doctor of Medicine. The title grants all the rights and duties that doctors are entitled to according to Hungarian law. Dr. Merkely and Dr. Kellermayer congratulated every newly conferred doctor with a handshake. On behalf of the new doctors, Dr. Fatima Zulqarnain and Dr. Franz-Josef Vogl expressed their gratitude for the conferment and promised that they would do everything in their power to serve science, health care, humanity and their country.

Two freshly conferred doctors addressed the audience on behalf of the students graduating in the English-language programme. Dr. Fatima Zulqarnain thanked the families and friends of the fresh graduates for all their support, and expressed her regret that they cannot be there in person to celebrate on this huge occasion. She also thanked the patients they encountered during their studies, who taught them that “the art of medicine is beyond textbooks and treatment algorithms,” as well as the teachers, “without whom we would undisputedly not be standing here as doctors.”

Dr. Nora Kovacs spoke about the wonderful memories the class of 2020 made, enjoying the beauty of each others’ diversity, as well as the experiences they had in the beautiful city of Budapest. “We have faced numerous challenges, and I think it’s safe to say that with this pandemic, we were tested just a little but more than expected,” she noted, adding however, that it encouraged them to step up as leaders. She said the learning process will continue for all graduates, and urged them to stay open-minded and strive for the best.

Dr. Franz-Josef Vogl spoke on behalf of the students graduating in the German-language programme. He thanked the professors who taught them and made them into what they are today, as well as the staff of the international secretariat for all their help during the years. “We are proud and grateful to have studied at this great university, and we will definitely go home as different people than when we arrived, with our new medical degrees now in our bags,” he said.

Dr. Miklós Kellermayer, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, started his commencement speech by recalling the first days of the current graduates at the university, and the path they have traveled over the past six years to arrive at this day. “You have also gotten a flavor of what it means to be a healthcare professional in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and learned what it takes to be a proud Semmelweis student and graduate,” he told the audience. He pointed out that as physicians, they have become torch-bearers of one of the grandest professions of mankind, swearing the same oath as their predecessors did over the past 3000 years. “I wish that in your magnificent journey you shall always walk a line in search of the truth and the protection of human life,” Dr. Kellermayer said, calling on fresh graduates to remember their alma mater, which will always expect them back.

The graduation ceremony was held with the fullest adherence to the currently required safety measures, while the relatives and friends of the graduating students were able to follow the proceedings via an online live broadcast.

Tamás Deme
Photo: Attila Kovács – Semmelweis University