WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Deep in the heart of Mohegan Sun Arena, in hallways where mostly hockey skates tread, The Commonwealth Medical College’s first class of graduating doctors shifted their weight nervously on high heels and Dr. Martens.
Educators from the region’s medical school shook hands with 120 graduates Saturday. The charter doctoral class — which began just after the college received provisional medical accreditation in 2008 — made up 57 of the graduates.
Those 57 wore eight-sided hats — the same hats worn by their professors — instead of the traditional four-sided mortarboards. The students were becoming colleagues of those who taught them.
One E.L. Meyers alumna stood in line, doctoral hood in hand, waiting for the procession to begin.
Mary Ellen Lisman, 26, laughed anxiously with friends in the arena passageway and talked about her approaching residency assignment at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, where she will work for three years.
She hopes to return to Wilkes-Barre, or a community close by, and open a family practice after her residency, Lisman said. “I really like the idea of continued patient care,” said Lisman, explaining that, as a specialist, she might not have as many opportunities to grow friendships with her patients.
After completing her undergraduate chemistry and neuroscience studies at the University of Pittsburgh, Lisman said she was thrilled to complete her book-learning near to where she grew up. She said the education experience was more to her liking, with personalized attention.
“None of my teachers at Pitt knew my name,” Lisman said, because some classes packed in 200 to 300 students.
The startup medical college is one of nine in the state and the first school to be accredited in more than 30 years. It’s doctorate degree program boasts a 6-to-1 student/teacher ratio.
Commencement was a shining moment for the college’s president, Dr. Steven Scheinman, who called out many college supporters in the audience, asking them to stand and be recognized.
He described fulfillment of a vision held by the founders to raise up medical professionals of the highest caliber who will bring great improvement to their communities, especially to health care in the college’s nearby communities. By graduating its first class, the college has left its provisional accreditation behind.
“The realization of that vision should be a source of great pride to all of you in this arena,” Scheinman said.
Giving the commencement address, George Thibault, a four-decade Harvard Medical School educator, held up Saturday’s edition of “The Times Tribune.” “There aren’t many places in the country that a graduating class makes the front page of the paper,” Thibault said, pointing to the Scranton newspaper’s preview.
He compared the medical school to a small-town doctor from the 1930s, a hero to its community and a reason to be proud.
Scheinman said the graduating students offered proof that the college founders’ efforts were worthwhile.
“We have validation that the college, the curriculum, the building, the faculty and the staff that this community built is a success, because it has enabled the success of these students,” Scheinman said.