Smiles, cheers, and camera flashes filled the Paramount Theater in downtown Oakland today as Samuel Merritt University (SMU) celebrated the graduation of more than 500 nurses and physician assistants.
“Going forward, you will have the honor of joining health care professionals on the front lines of saving and enriching lives,” SMU President Ching-Hua Wang told the graduates. “Our shared health care profession is noble and impactful.”
While SMU graduation has traditionally been held in May, SMU is now hosting two commencement ceremonies a year because of the University’s increasing number of graduates.
Dr. Bruce Miller Jr., a hospice and palliative care specialist at UCSF’s Medical Center and Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, delivered an inspirational Commencement address. He recalled his own experience of suffering from severe burns and said he credits three nurses who took care of him for saving his life.
Miller told the graduates that they will work at the intersection of life and death, science and humanity.
“Stay in between, straddle these, because that’s where the truth is,” said Miller.
Arika Medrano, a graduate of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, gave the student address.
“Here in the Bay Area, we are fortunate to celebrate our diversity and embrace our similarities,” said Medrano. “Human compassion binds us together.”
The graduates included military veterans, children of immigrants, and students who were the first in their families to earn health care degrees.
Degrees were given to 43 graduates of the Master of Physician Assistant program and 464 students from the Doctor of Nursing Practice,Master of Science in Nursing – Case Management, Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner, Master of Science – Certified Registered Nurse Anesthesia, Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing, RN to BSN, and BSN programs.
Among the students to receive awards for outstanding achievement was Rebecca Taylor, who grew up in the foster care system and beat the odds to become a nurse and earn a doctoral degree.
President Wang expressed admiration for all of the graduates.
“Your work is consequential and makes a profound difference in the lives of the people you serve,” she said.