Skip to Content

School of Medicine Greenville

Class of 2023 returned from spring break to lock down

 As the COVID public health emergency intensified in 2020, Hannah Owen and her classmates at USC School of Medicine Greenville returned from spring break to lockdown. Anatomy classes and studying with peers were swiftly replaced with remote learning.  

“The creature comforts of normalcy were removed from our everyday lives. In 2020, the world almost felt like it stopped,” says Owen. “But the life of a medical student with unwavering deadlines quickly pulled me back into the fast line.” 

The onset of the pandemic might well be in the past, but the Class of 2023 at SOMG, which attended Convocation on May 4 and graduated at Commencement on May 5, has this unique experience they will carry with them, an experience unlike that of medical students before them.    

“All medical students go through those tough first two years and have EMT training (here at SOMG), but how many experience a true pandemic?” asked Dr. Shanna Williams, Clinical Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences and a founding faculty member at SOMG. “That will undoubtedly shape how they see themselves in this profession and the role of healthcare, and I imagine for the better.”  

With the onset of the pandemic, Owen had to put some of her social connections on the back burner. But a silver lining came during a moment of reflection.  

The pandemic challenged us to identify social gaps, create a solution, and to continue finding a way to support one another.

SOMG graduate Hannah Owen

“It was in these moments, sitting by myself at the kitchen table studying for my neuroscience exam, that the idea for an M1 and M2 mentorship program was born,” Owen recalls. “Another classmate had a similar idea, and together we created what is now called the Mentorship and Professionalism Program. The pandemic challenged us to identify social gaps, create a solution, and to continue finding a way to support one another. The pandemic reminded us that we are stronger together as a team than navigating this path alone, and we are more resilient clinicians today because even when challenged, we found a way to persevere and overcome — together.” 

Fellow Class of 2023 graduate Alec Strigenz agrees that the COVID pandemic was the most difficult challenge of his medical education. Yet, it also brought a new perspective on medicine and the importance of medical research. “We had so much information and it was a challenge, but a positive experience, just learning how to navigate through all of that,” Strigenz says. 

Providing Care 

Adversity and perseverance shaped the Class of 2023. They experienced a once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic, undoubtedly facing numerous trials and tribulations, and persevered to complete their studies and arrive at this moment.  

But the Class of 2023 did much more than just progress through their classes. Dean Marjorie Jenkins praises the Class of 2023 for supporting each other and helping others during a critical time. “They assembled thousands of face shields with masks for front line workers, volunteered to sit with non-COVID patients who were receiving IV therapies, delivered food to community members in need, performed drive-thru testing and contact tracing, and created a mentorship program for fellow students,” says Jenkins.  

SOMG’s medical students helped provide care when it was needed.  

“Because USCSOMG was the first medical school in the nation to ensure all of our entering first year students are state and nationally certified as EMTS, our students were able to jump in and administer vaccines when they became available,” says Jenkins. “Ultimately, these students would care for patients with COVID during their third and fourth years of medical school. 

I am proud of our students for pivoting during the pandemic and how willing they were to help one another and the community.

Dean Marjorie Jenkins

“I am proud of our students for pivoting during the pandemic and how willing they were to help one another and the community,” says Jenkins, “and how willing they were to get back into the classroom once we returned to in-person learning. From the onset of the pandemic, they showed resilience and supported each other.” 

Not only did students pivot back to in-classroom learning; they overcame adversity to end up celebrating — as an overall class — with a milestone 100% match rate on Match Day 2023. That Friday, March 17 was a rainy day, and the celebrated and anticipated culminative event, held at Fluor Field, was moved to the covered stadium concourse due to the rainy weather. But spirits were high. A cheer rang out, a celebration of the major career milestone on this Match Day.  

“Ready to Go” 

Convocation, held May 4 at McAlister Auditorium, Furman University, was an evening to celebrate and look ahead to the patients graduates will care for and future physicians they will help support.  

“After four years, it is a little surreal,” says Class of 2023 graduate Madeleine Mendelow. She most looks forward to now helping and mentoring other future physicians during residency — just as so many mentors have helped her.  

Owen also looks forward to mentoring other medical students. “It is important to support the next generation of physicians,” she says.  

Class of 2023 students paused to give thanks to family, friends, mentors and faculty at SOMG. “We wouldn’t be here without their support,” says Lindsey Brady.  

Gene Langan is excited about the five-year general surgery residency at Prisma Health he will start on July 1. “I’ll be ready to go,” Langan says.   

During the convocation event, guest speaker Dr. Marcia Welsh told students to hold onto their dreams. Dr. Welsh was a founding faculty at the USC School of Medicine Columbia and serves as the president of East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.  

“I think it is important to have a dream to inspire to,” Welsh said. “The path won’t be straight, and your aspirations may shift over time. But once you have you articulated your dream, stay focused and never lose sight of that dream. That dream got you here today.” She encouraged the Class of 2023 to preserve despite what obstacles they may face. 

“I started my dream, my career of choice as a newly-minted assistant professor back in 1978,” Welsh said. “If you go back and look at the data from that decade you will see that women were an extreme minority not only as medical students, but also on medical school faculty rosters. And my aspirations, my dreams were challenged on a regular basis.” 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.