Vicksburg natives among 2023 University of Mississippi Medical Center graduates

Published 5:22 pm Tuesday, May 30, 2023

 In its 67th annual Commencement, the University of Mississippi Medical Center on Friday conferred degrees to hundreds of students who are beginning their careers in the health sciences, or entering into a new chapter of an existing one in this state and beyond.

The graduates of the schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, Population Health and Health Related Professions are leaving campus with the aim of improving health and quality of life. Of this year’s graduating class of 911 students, more than 740 walked across the stage in cap and gown to receive their diplomas in person.

Brittany Ashlan Boolos, Cameron Morgan Curtis, Lemichal Tamar Drake, Kristen Danielle Dunaway, Lavinia Diane Jones, Ashley Kelly Hitchins, Lauren Curtis Stewart and John Henley Wells Wilkinson were among the graduates, all hailing from Vicksburg.

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“Graduates, there are four things I want you to take with you,” Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, told graduates.

“Today is just a day. It’s a big day, and one you have worked toward for a long time,” she said. “As you go forward, you will continue to learn from one another, from other health care professionals, and you will learn from the greatest teachers of all — the patients.  Never lose sight of what a privilege that is.

“You will make choices every day that will impact others in a significant way,” Woodward added. “Along the way, at some point in time, someone made a positive impression on you. You are now in that position to have a positive impact on others. Deal with others and those you serve with a deep respect. Our nation will continue to struggle with ways to care for the sick. I challenge every one of you to be a part of of the solution to this struggle. We need you and your talents here in this state.

“You will never practice any profession well if you don’t have a good time doing it,” Woodward said. “The work before you is hard. It is important. It is heavy. And, it is rewarding and it is worth doing. Remember the excitement, the spirit and the passion you have today, and keep it with you.”

Dr. Glenn Boyce, chancellor of the University of Mississippi, told graduates that he’s confident they are well prepared for their next steps of training or for launching their careers as a health care provider or researcher.

“We’re especially grateful to celebrate this class that demonstrated perseverance and resilience in the face of tremendous disruption in their personal lives and in their education during one of the most challenging periods in our nation’s history,” Boyce said. “You’ve reached this pinnacle and fulfilled your educational goals through hard work, grit and determination.

“And, I know you’ve done so with the steadfast support, and many times sacrifice, of your loved ones,” he said. “It is my honor to join you here today as we mark the culmination of years of study, sacrifice and diligent preparation and the fulfillment of many lifelong dreams.”

Among the new graduates is La’Quita Minor of Rolling Fork. She received her bachelor’s in health informatics and information management from the School of Health Related Professions and recently earned her certification as a registered health information administrator.

A beloved family member was missing from Minor’s cheering section Friday. Minor and her immediate family rode out the March 24 tornado that devastated their tiny Delta community. Their mobile home was left damaged but functional. The mobile home of Minor’s aunt, Delores Harris, was destroyed. Harris lost her life.

“It’s been tough on my family,” said Minor, who earned her degree online as the pandemic raged.

A combination of discipline and structure kept her focused as she studied for her third degree. She earlier earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Jackson State University and an associate of arts in general studies from Hinds Community College.

“I really like the business side of health care,” Minor said. “I originally thought of going into nursing, but I like the behind-the-scenes part of health care. It aligns more with my personality, and it has so many things wrapped into one: health, law, management and administration, coding, revenue cycle.”