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Local medical and nursing school graduates prepare to enter the front lines during the pandemic

UCI Medical School graduation
A vehicle decorated for the UC Irvine School of Medicine class of 2020’s first-ever drive-through commencement ceremony on May 30.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Medical school graduates are preparing to take their place on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19.

Richelle Roelandt Lu Homo, who recently graduated from the UC Irvine School of Medicine, said she is ready to begin working in a hospital despite anxieties posed by the pandemic.

“We are entering the world of medicine with greater responsibility,” Lu Homo said. “That increased level of responsibility is scary but exciting because it means we are doing something right.”

The 24 students in Vanguard University's nursing pre-licensure program, which started in 2018.
The 24 students in Vanguard University’s nursing pre-licensure program, which started in 2018, is its very first graduating class.
(Courtesy of Vanguard University)

Andrew Bailey, one of the 24 graduates from Vanguard University’s nursing pre-licensure program, said many of his fellow students are nervous about their schooling coming to an end.

“It’s totally unprecedented being in nursing school and graduating, and a global pandemic hits,” Bailey said. “Within our group, people are having anxiety just in the finality. We are such a tight-knit group.”

These medical and nursing students are also graduating amid mass social upheaval. Protests have been held around the country in response to the killing of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin.

Lu Homo said that doctors need to be aware of the racial and social disparities in the healthcare system.

“It’s not just about the pandemic, you are graduating during a period of unrest where many innocent black lives have been lost,” Lu Homo said. “Graduating medical school and earning this degree at this time means we are in a place of privilege.

“This particular degree on the one hand is hard-earned — 20 years of education — but also a means to an end for a purpose, and that purpose is we have this duty to be able to recognize that there are inequities in our healthcare system.”

UCI School of Medicine graduation
Hung Nguyen takes a photo of his nephew, graduate Ryan Nguyen, along with Ryan’s mother Van Lam and his brother Preston Nguyen at the UCI School of Medicine’s first drive-through commencement ceremony on May 30.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

But these early-career healthcare workers are needed now more than ever.

“I am a Christian and I believe God has placed a calling in my life to become a nurse,” Bailey said. “So right now I believe there is more of a need for myself and people like me than any time that we have experienced in our recent history.

“I am excited for the challenge. I know Vanguard has prepared me to be a novice nurse in the hospital, and I trust the organizations I work for will be doing the best they can to protect the employees.”

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