ETSU celebrates future health care workers on first day of in-person commencement

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — More than 2,000 East Tennessee State University students will be receiving a college degree over the next few days.

This is the first in-person graduation at the school in over a year.

To keep up with social distancing and health measures, the university is spreading out the graduation events across four days and 10 ceremonies.

On this first day of ceremonies, ETSU celebrated the newest group of future health care workers.

Just like holidays, graduation ceremonies tend to bring families from all across the globe to celebrate their person of the hour.

Though, that celebration will be done on a much smaller scale as ETSU hosts its first spring commencement since the COVID-19 crisis.

Blue, gold and green filled the ETSU Mini-Dome Thursday afternoon as the cap and gowns glistened against the light across the in-door stadium.

“It’s been extremely challenging for the students and the institution to just provide the clinical setting that is full of a lot of patients suffering from COVID,” ETSU Vice President of Clinical Affairs and Dean of College of Medicine Dr. Bill Block said. ” It’s been challenging for the hospital.”

Among the more than 70 graduates from the James H. Quillen College of Medicine is Victoria Stabile.

“I think, for a lot of us, we are just excited that we are going into the field that we have been studying for so long. We’ve seen the amazing strength of our health care workers in our region and we’re excited to join the ranks,” Stabile said.

The Nashville-native is one of a few graduating medical students following in the footsteps of a family member as a physician. Her father, Dr. Michael Stabile, was able to participate in a hooding ceremony during the commencement.

A recorded live stream of the college’s commencement can be found here.

Her father told News Channel 11 he received his medical degree from Rutgers University, in New Jersey. He is a board-certified anesthesiologist in Nashville.

“This is a long culmination of a career of a five-year-old who said she was going to be a pilot and a monkey scientist,” Stabile said. “I have three daughters and they’re all very different and she was always interested in science and helping people. Being a healer and a physician is the perfect meld of those aspirations. I’m very proud of her. She has worked very hard.”

The socially distanced graduates and crowd donned face coverings, reminding everyone of the challenges we still face.

“It was unfortunate to see obviously the level of illness in our community but at the same time, we learned so much by interacting with those patients and their families,” Stabile said. “One thing that we’re really thankful for is all of the patients in this region and the families that allowed us to be part of their care.”

She plans to move back to Nashville where she will do her residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center for four years.

ETSU plans to continue its spring commencement tomorrow with five ceremonies set to take place. The first one of the day will host the class of 2020 and will begin at 10 a.m.

A list of the spring commencement schedule can be found here.

Congratulations ETSU graduates Class of 2020 and 2021 from News Channel 11 and ABC Tri-Cities!

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