UCLA medical students celebrate commencement and the journey that got them there

Meet some of the graduating doctors from the David Geffen School of Medicine.
Dean Steven Dubinett addresses the graduating class of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, at the commencement ceremony on May 31, 2024.
Dean Steven Dubinett addresses the graduating class of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, at the commencement ceremony on May 31, 2024. (Photo by Reed Hutchinson)

One-hundred-seventy graduating medical students celebrated a major milestone during the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA commencement, reciting the Hippocratic oath and becoming physicians during the 70th ceremony on May 31.

Steven Dubinett, MD, dean of the medical school, praised the students for their commitment to addressing health care disparities and for their resilience during the pandemic that coincided with their medical education.

“Our groundbreaking research, innovative educational activities, and our entire community are guided by the aspiration to become physicians and lead a life of impact, working together to deliver health to our community,” Dubinett said. “From the day you first donned your white coats to this culminating moment here today, your class has worked hard to achieve this goal.” 

The keynote speaker, Matthew Desmond, PhD, a Princeton sociologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, addressed fighting poverty and serving the poor. 

“One thing this beautiful calling requires of you is to leverage your power and your practice to serve them and to fight the causes of their poverty,” Desmond said. “Abolishing poverty means that physicians find new ways to target the disease of poverty itself, and not just treat the symptoms.” 

Among the impressive group of graduates, the following students discuss how their personal and professional experiences influenced their decision to become doctors: 

Daughter of immigrants plans to serve disadvantaged communities 

As a daughter of Indian immigrants who fled political and religious turmoil, Gurjit Kaur, MD, has firsthand experience with disparities in health care. 

The eldest of four children, Dr. Kaur served as interpreter during family members' medical appointments, which involved going to the public library to search and translate dense medical jargon. This resourcefulness and resiliency led her on a path to address inequalities in health care. Still, it wasn’t until she served in AmeriCorps for the public education system after college that she gravitated toward health and medicine. 

Dr. Kaur’s interest in medicine solidified after her father became gravely ill and she routinely witnessed the lack of appropriate medical care he received. After not gaining admission to medical school on her first attempt, she sought mentorship through the UCLA Re-Application Program

Crediting mentorship for her admission into medical school, Dr. Kaur has already started giving back and helping first-generation undergraduate students reapply to medical school. Once she completes her residency, she would like to support underserved communities and sees herself working at a county hospital or rural clinic.   

“I also hope to explore my interests in public policy and patient advocacy by working to address social determinants of health at the local and state legislative levels,” she said. 

An aspiring surgeon and anthropology researcher 

When Emily Jones, MD, PhD, was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, she was en route to becoming a doctor. But a chance encounter at a school fair led her to study abroad in Nepal. There, she discovered anthropology and was drawn to the new perspectives on health and human interaction that it offered. She changed course and pursued an MD-PhD degree. 

Dr. Jones joined UCLA as a student in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), earning her MD as well as a PhD in medical anthropology. During her time in the program, she researched the intersection of violence intervention, trauma surgery, and public safety at a county hospital in Los Angeles. Her next step is completing a residency in general surgery, where she aims to continue doing health equity research. 

“I'm really interested in figuring out how to integrate anthropology research and surgical practice,” she said. 


The following graduates were part of PRIME-LA, a dual medical and master’s degree program focused on developing community-minded leaders in health care. 

A woman of color diversifying orthopaedic surgery 

When Nonye Ikeanyi, MD, was an undergraduate at MIT, she was initially interested in technology and engineering. But an internship at a biotech company that designed devices for the heart made her feel distant from the patients who would benefit from the technology – plus, underserved populations had limited access to the devices. 

During the internship, Dr. Ikeanyi saw that surgeons were involved in designing medical devices, and she also realized that a career serving patients from diverse populations would be more fulfilling than her current path. So, she pivoted to a career in medicine. 

After holding the class president role and exploring specialties in medical school, Dr. Ikeanyi will be starting a residency in orthopaedic surgery, a specialty in which women and minorities are underrepresented. As a woman of color, Dr. Ikeanyi is looking forward to helping patients from underserved communities feel comfortable when they see an orthopaedic specialist – whether it’s in the emergency room or an outpatient setting. 

“I also really hope in the future that I'm able to do more research on how patients in ortho are being impacted by health policies,” Dr. Ikeanyi said.

Filling the need in primary care 

A first-generation college student raised in a Mexican immigrant household who overcame significant language and cultural barriers, Marcos Munoz, MD, has had lived experiences that have fueled his passion for medicine and his deep commitment to addressing health care disparities.   

Dr. Munoz said mentorship through MiMentor and UCLA PREP was instrumental in helping him get into medical school, and now he pays it forward by assisting students in navigating the application process.

As Dr. Munoz starts his next chapter, the husband and father of two is looking forward to beginning his Family Medicine residency – a specialty facing a shortage of doctors – at Kaiser Fontana. He also wants to work on health policies affecting under-resourced communities and is committed to helping high school and college students on the path to becoming a doctor. 

“To be a Latino physician serving mi comunidad is a privilege and an honor,” Dr. Munoz said. “And I love being a role model to my kids and helping them forge their own paths.” 

His journey through medical school with his family would not have been possible without the support of the UCLA Students with Dependents program, he said. 

Find out more about the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

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