A view of the stage at Commencement as well as the audience of graduates and their supporters
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School of Nursing Graduates Encouraged to Not Lose Heart in the Fight for Health Justice

(May 20, 2024) — The 369 graduates of the School of Nursing gathered on Healy Lawn to celebrate the commencement of the Class of 2024 surrounded by their friends and family.

Dean Waite speaks from a podium

Roberta Waite, EdD, RN, PMHCNS, ANEF, FAAN

“Graduates of the Class of 2024, each of you will not only advance our profession, but you will also make an indelible mark in promoting humanism and justice in health,” said Roberta Waite, EdD, RN, PMHCNS, ANEF, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing.

“It’s bittersweet. I’m nervous but excited at the same time,” said Delayah Milam (G’24), a graduate of the Master of Science Entry to Nursing Practice Clinical Nurse Leader Program. Milam will start her career as a nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the surgical oncology unit.

The Duty That Lies Ahead

Waite prepared graduates for their task ahead in their chosen profession. “Nursing is about improving the health of individuals, families and communities,” she said. “We leverage our expert skills, individual and collective power, to transform systems of inequality which harms the health of those we partner with in providing care. This is our duty.”

Dean Waite and President DeGioia place a yellow academic hood on Polgar-Bailey's shoulders

Dean Waite and President DeGioia hood Patricia “Tish” Polgar-Bailey, FNP, MPH, PsyD, for her honorary doctor of science degree.

The faculty of the School of Nursing selected Patricia “Tish” Polgar-Bailey, FNP, MPH, PsyD, a family nurse practitioner and clinical psychologist at the Charlottesville Free Clinic in Virginia, to be the commencement speaker and to receive an honorary doctor of science degree from Georgetown. In her address, Polgar-Bailey described many of the challenges currently facing nurses in providing care and how graduates can seek to build a better health care system by focusing on patient interaction.

“Shocking health disparities continue to exist by gender, geography, socioeconomic status, ethnicity and other factors,” said Polgar-Bailey. “As we allow ourselves to be affected by what affects our patients, we are changed. It is only then that we are able to love our neighbors as ourselves, because we realize that they are us and we are them, and that what connects is so much more than what divides us.”

Practical Advice for Future Practice

Polgar-Bailey ended her address with five things graduates should keep in mind in future practice.

Kayla and Jordan stand side by side dressed in their academic regalia

Both Kayla Zmayefski (G’24), left, and Jordan Vaughan (G’24) wear the distinctive orchid and white cord over their gowns signifying their induction into Sigma Theta Tau, the honor society of nursing. Of the 2024 graduating class, 64 students achieved this academic honor.

“Class of 2024, please remember that there are no ordinary moments; every interaction is sacred; you have everything you need; resist the temptation to skim over the depths of your life; and do not lose heart,” said Polgar-Bailey.

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia conferred 24 Bachelor of Science, 277 Master of Science, and 68 doctoral degrees to conclude the ceremonies.

“I believe my program really prepared me for my job in neurosurgery, and I feel like I can care for my patients very well,” said Jordan Vaughan (G’24), who graduated from the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP) program.

Vaughn’s classmate Kayla Zmayefski (G’24) shared a similar sentiment about feeling prepared for her next chapter. “I feel like if you sit a lot of new nurse practitioners in a room, the Georgetown graduates really stand out,” she said. “I feel really prepared, and I’m glad I chose Georgetown.”

Heather Wilpone-Welborn
GUMC Communications

Watch This Year’s Commencement Ceremony

More Scenes From Commencement 2024

Story: Heather Wilpone-Welborn, GUMC Communications
Images: Phil Humnicky, Georgetown University

Commencement 2024