Pandemic expert and Pro Football Hall of Famer bookend KCU Virtual Graduation Ceremony

May 14, 2020
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Contact: Elizabeth Alex
Public Affairs Director
(816) 654-7032

(Kansas City, Mo. - May 11, 2020)
For the second time in its 104-year history, Kansas City University (KCU) celebrated its graduating class during a global pandemic. The Class of 1918 graduated during the outbreak of the Spanish Flu. On Saturday, May 9, the format of the Class of 2020’s commencement was driven by yet another pandemic. Despite obstacles presented by COVID-19, KCU’s first virtual ceremony took place on its regularly scheduled graduation time.

The formal ceremony, presenting the graduates of the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and the College of Biosciences included a global pandemic expert as the keynote speaker, as well as a Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Kansas City Chiefs player.

Ali Khan, MD, MPH, dean of the College of Public Health and professor of epidemiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in Omaha, Nebraska, and author of The Next Pandemic, gave a timely keynote address.

Khan, who has been featured nationally for his expertise during the pandemic, urged the graduating health professionals to remember the health-care workers who have lost their lives treating patients during the pandemic and outlined challenges the coronavirus has exposed in health care.

“After this, pandemic medicine and medical science will never be practiced the same again,” Khan said. “The current model was already non-sustainable, expensive, inefficient, inequitable, too focused on specialty care and often dangerous.”

Yet, he pointed out the pandemic opened new possibilities in remote monitoring, use of online tools, home visits and a return to patient-centered health care.

“We are stepping through a portal from a world we knew to one we — and especially you — will create,” Khan said. “This burden has always been true but now more so than ever.”

Amid the pomp and circumstance and the traditional presentations by university administrators, the graduates received words of encouragement from a surprise guest speaker: former Kansas City Chiefs tight end and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Tony Gonzalez.

“Never could I think of a more noble position to be in than to be on the front lines of what’s going on, what’s affecting the world right now,” Gonzalez said. “How thankful we are that you will be taking care of us.”

Also addressing the class, Marc B. Hahn, DO, KCU president and CEO, commended the graduates for their hard work and dedication and noted this class is not the first to graduate in the midst of a public health crisis.

“This class of 2020 is, in fact, the second in KCU’s history to graduate during a pandemic,” Hahn said.

“One hundred and two years ago — just two years after our university opened its doors in 1916 — the country was overwhelmed by widespread illness and death from the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. Our graduates then, like now, faced the daunting reality of leaving school to go onto the frontlines, seeking answers and treating patients ravaged by the spread of that novel influenza virus.”

Of the 386 graduates, KCU conferred doctoral degrees on 267 from the College of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and the Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences degree (MS) upon 119 graduates.

The virtual ceremony included the Osteopathic Oath, which was administered to graduates of the College of Osteopathic Medicine by Darrin D’Agostino, DO, executive dean and vice president for health affairs. Additionally, Major General Phil Volpe, DO, recognized 16 members of the class who not only will dedicate their lives to serve as physicians, but also have committed to serve the nation as officers of the armed forces in the U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy.

Immediately following the initial showing of the video, the university provided virtual reception rooms for graduates, families and faculty to gather and celebrate. Graduates took the opportunity to reminisce with photo collages, thank professors and introduce their families to the deans and faculty after viewing the ceremony.


About Kansas City University

Kansas City University, founded in 1916, is a regionally accredited, not-for-profit private health sciences university with a College of Osteopathic Medicine and a College of Biosciences. The College of Osteopathic Medicine is the eighth largest medical school in the nation and the leading producer of physicians for the State of Missouri. KCU opened a second medical school campus in Joplin, Mo. in 2017 to help address the growing need for physicians in the region’s rural communities. The University offers numerous graduate degrees to include a doctoral program in clinical psychology started in 2017 to meet the growing demand for behavioral health providers in the region. Groundbreaking for a College of Dental Medicine in Joplin, Mo., will take place late 2020.

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