Our graduates get off to a great start for residency
Every year we have the distinct honor of recognizing several students for their outstanding contributions during their time in medical school at a luncheon hosted by the Medical School and Medical Center Alumni Society (MCAS). These graduates demonstrated excellence and achievement in core areas, including education, research, clinical and service. Read about five of the future physician leaders from this year’s class.
Jonathan Bender, MD “I knew that any of the schools that I considered would provide me with the foundation needed to become a doctor; however, what attracted me to Michigan was the emphasis on transforming its students into physician-leaders.”
Julie Blaszczak, MD “I am grateful for what Michigan has taught me as I have grown over the past four years; grateful that patients will be allowing me to care for them; and grateful to all the people who supported me throughout this journey, including my family, classmates, teachers, and patients.”
Lesley Everett, MD “I’m thrilled to move on to the next phase of my clinical training and to the new challenges and rewards of residency.”
Jonathan Peterson, MD “I am so happy to graduate and finally become a doctor. It has been my dream ever since I can remember, and I’m thrilled to begin my career as a physician-scientist.”
Yasmine White, MD “I was drawn to surgery because I enjoy the technical problem solving and the culture of dedication.”
Check out facts and stats about the entire Class of 2016 or see where they matched!
Jonathan Bender, M.D.
For Jonathan Bender, anticipating the first few hours on campus as a medical student seemed pretty clear-cut: receive your ceremonial white coat, meet your classmates and Medical School leaders, and get to work. He quickly found out that Michigan is different in bringing new students into the fold.
“Our orientation was one of the most staggeringly over-the-top moments of my experience at the University of Michigan,” he recalls. “After a series of workshops on leadership and interpersonal strengths, we were challenged to work together in a Top-Chef style cook-off to prepare (surprisingly good) food for faculty judges and classmates. This was a great way to meet peers and was truly the first test of how we would work together during high-stress situations.”
The first few days on campus, says the native of Fort Thomas, Ky., showed him that leadership, service, and extracurricular endeavors — both on- and off-campus — are important, while simultaneously learning about the practice of medicine. During his final year, he served as the Medical Student Council President.
“Growing up, the value of serving one’s community was instilled in me from an early age,” he reflects. “Upon entering college and serving through the Americorps program, I found that I wanted service to others to be a defining feature of my personal and professional lives.” Bender has always been interested in science and biomedical research; in medicine, he found the perfect amalgam of his passions for service and for science.
Bender lists several service highlights from his time at Michigan: serving in Detroit and learning its history through the Health Equity Scholars Program; dancing and singing outside in December to raise money for Galens Tag Days; planning Fall Ball and coordinating the Match Day festivities through Student Council; and working with classmates to organize Second Look Weekend for nearly 200 prospective students.
The opportunity to participate in these types of activities is one of the reasons Bender chose the University of Michigan for medical school. He says that students are challenged throughout all four years to utilize their education for the service of others and to not remain isolated to the confines of the medical campus.
“When looking for a medical school, I hoped to find an institution that valued cultivating its students outside of the classroom as much as it emphasized scientific and clinical knowledge,” he recalls. “I knew that any of the schools that I considered would provide me with the foundation needed to become a doctor; however, what attracted me to Michigan was the emphasis on transforming its students into physician-leaders.”
Bender graduated with distinction at Hill Auditorium on May 13th. He received a separate commendation for distinction in service. He is staying at Michigan for his residency in internal medicine-pediatrics, and plans to devote his career to improving outcomes for adolescents and young adults with cancer and to providing longitudinal care to adults who were treated for malignancies as children.
“Although we are entering medicine at a relatively turbulent time, this uncertainty also creates numerous opportunities to utilize our education to improve the state of health care in our country and across the world,” he says. “I am confident that the University of Michigan has prepared us all to lead in the ever-changing landscape of health care, and I am excited to see how my classmates and I will positively impact our fields over the course of our careers.”
Julie Blaszczak, M.D.
Every graduating medical student has something that has motivated him or her, or become a meaningful part of his or her journey through the University of Michigan Medical School. For Julie Blaszczak, her transformation from M1 to doctor has been all about the people — from Day 1.
“I remember thinking that I truly found ‘my people’ on Interview Day,” she recalls. “I loved that the students could discuss their studies, social justice, and the sporting event they went to as a group, all with equal vigor. It was a perfect balance for success and happiness in medical school.”
Blaszczak graduated with highest honors from the University of Michigan in 2012 with a B.S. in anthropology. She fell in love with medical anthropology during her time on campus, and opted to pursue a career as a health care provider that would allow her to partner with patients to better understand their health and illness.
Four years later, Julie crossed the stage at Hill Auditorium on May 13th and became Dr. Blaszczak. Later this summer, she will begin a family medicine residency at the U-M. Thanks to another person that touched her, she is more than prepared to see patients in the UMHS Ypsilanti Health Center.
Blaszczak, a native of Northville, MI, says she owes a great deal to a volunteer she met during her time in the Family Centered Experience. “I truly enjoyed eating Thai food or drinking coffee while talking about her journey through the health care system,” she says. “She taught me so much about what it means to be a compassionate physician.”
And, because no one can do it alone, in the classroom or clinic, Blaszczak says she was fortunate to travel the path to becoming a doctor with one of her closest friends by her side — Carolyn Commissaris, a fellow graduate who will begin a residency at the U-M in emergency medicine. “I will always remember the times we would grab dinner after long hours of work to decompress and talk through cases or simply get our minds off of medicine for a couple of minutes,” she says. “I owe a great deal to her.”
These individuals — some near, others soon to be far — cheered Blaszczak on when she was honored at the Medical Center Alumni Society's Graduation Awards Luncheon the day before graduation. She received the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award — given to a student who best demonstrates the ideals of outstanding compassion in the delivery of care, and respect for patients, their families, and colleagues — and the Patrick John Niland Award — presented to a student who, in the eyes of the graduating class, best exemplifies the positive, compassionate approach to medicine that characterized Niland, a member of the Class of 1986 who was killed in an automobile crash. She also earned a Glasgow-Rubin achievement citation from the American Medical Women’s Association.
In addition, she graduated with distinction in the top-10 percent of the class.
“These awards are incredibly special to me because they were chosen by my classmates, who I so greatly admire,” she says, acknowledging her peers and fellow doctors-to-be. “I was so touched and grateful to be chosen. I wouldn't be where I am without their support, kindness and laughter.”
Thanks to the people who have impacted her the past four years — volunteers, classmates, and best friends, alike — Blaszczak is confident as she begins the practice of medicine, while also pursuing interests in underserved medicine, teaching, advocacy and patient-centered care.
“I am grateful for what Michigan has taught me as I have grown over the past four years; grateful that patients will be allowing me to care for them; and grateful to all the people who supported me throughout this journey, including my family, classmates, teachers and patients,” she says.
Lesley Everett, M.D.
Lesley Everett enjoyed her early experiences in the University of Michigan Medical School so much, she decided to double-down on her education. After beginning her studies as a PhD student in the Department of Human Genetics, she switched to the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) to also complete her MD.
Eight years later, Everett graduated with the class of 2016 at Hill Auditorium on May 13th. In addition to graduating with distinction in the top-10 percent of the class, she also is the recipient of the George R. DeMuth Award as the MSTP student who best exemplifies all of the attributes of a physician-scientist.
For Everett, who earned a M.Phil. in epidemiology in 2007 from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, the dual degrees from Michigan will allow her to pursue a career in medicine that provides the perfect complement of opportunities and challenges in patient care and diagnosis, balancing primary prevention and therapeutic care, and in scientific innovation and basic research.
“I enjoy working in multi-disciplinary, collaborative teams to determine the best treatment for each patient, and I particularly find the intersection of ophthalmology with so many other specialties — including genetics, internal medicine, neurology and pathology — fascinating,” says Everett, a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.
Everett, who hails from Port Angeles, WA, will move back west for an ophthalmology residency at the University of California, San Francisco. She will pursue a career as an academic physician-scientist in the field of ophthalmology, where she will balance her time between clinical work and pursuing basic and translational research in ophthalmic genetics or ocular oncology.
She departs with fond memories of the Medical School, specifically the longstanding relationships she developed with several pediatric patients and their families through the MedBuddies program and the opportunity to travel for several research and clinical electives, including a Global REACH Peru trip, a Social Medicine course in Uganda, and a research elective relating to inherited retinal disorders at the Institut de la Vision in Paris, France.
“I'm thrilled to move on to the next phase of my clinical training and to the new challenges and rewards of residency,” she says. “Nevertheless, I will miss Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan immensely, and I look forward to returning soon and often.”
Jonathan Peterson, M.D.
As he heads off to residency in orthopedic surgery at Duke University in Durham, NC, Jonathan Peterson looks back fondly on the firsts he encountered during his four years in the University of Michigan Medical School. For Peterson, there were many, including:
• The excitement and feeling of pride in having an abstract accepted for a presentation at a national research meeting; and the first time he saw his name on a paper in a peer-reviewed journal.
• The start of 3rd-year orientation and the excitement and nervousness he felt at finally starting to care for patients.
• The first time he gave chest compressions during a code and finding out later that, although the patient regained spontaneous circulation, he soon passed from brain injury.
• The fear that came after he finished interviews and waited for Match Day, and the joy and relief when he found out that he had matched at Duke.
Among his most important accomplishments at Michigan, Peterson cites: growing closer with his wife, Shalay, through times of great stress and navigating a difficult schedule; having two children (two-year-old Wesley, and four-month-old Courtney); joining the Army National Guard; having a patient nominate him for a Making a Difference Award; and developing a passion for research.
“I am so happy to graduate and finally become a doctor,” he says. “It has been my dream ever since I can remember, and I’m thrilled to begin my career as a physician-scientist. I love working with people, and I like solving problems and helping others.”
Peterson is the first member of his family to go to college and become a doctor, and he credits his drive, desire to help others and persistence to his wonderful and supportive parents, Richard and Darlene.
The native of Salt Lake City, UT, was honored at the Graduation Awards luncheon, receiving the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research. He is one of 25 students in the class to graduate with distinction in research.
Yasmine White, M.D.
Like many medical students, Yasmine White began her studies at the University of Michigan unsure exactly what path in medicine to follow. Drawn to Michigan because of its all-around academic program, she eventually gravitated to surgery.
“I was drawn to surgery because I enjoy the technical problem solving and the culture of dedication,” she says. White also developed an interest in cancer biology, which she pursued through a Howard Hughes Medical Institute fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco.
White is returning to her home state of California to begin a general surgery residency at Stanford University. The native of Arcata — a community just north of San Francisco — will return home from a cross-country educational trek that began with her undergraduate studies at Bowdoin College in Maine.
The future surgeon heads west with a medical degree in hand and a handful of awards including the Scholastic Award (top-five student), honors for Graduation with Distinction (top-10 percent of the class) and Graduation with Distinction in Research, and a Glasgow-Rubin Citation for Academic Achievement from the American Medical Women’s Association.
She also leaves with fond memories of her time in Ann Arbor.
“I have really enjoyed living in Michigan,” White says, adding that running through the Arb and eating at Ann Arbor’s restaurants are things she will miss. “I am thankful for all of the wonderful mentoring I have received while at Michigan and am honored to receive these awards.”