I’ve officially been Dr. Melanie C. Watt, MD, for just over a week now. It’s great, really – having the title without the responsibility. Like everything else we do here in Louisiana, and in med school, graduation was a far larger to-do than just a graduation ceremony. To celebrate the week, some of our moms went in on a digital billboard auction and our faces were flashed over the streets of Shreveport for all the world to see. I’m not sure how many people noticed it, but we sure got a kick out of it being there!
The party started on Wednesday, with cap and gown pickup, lunch, and the infamous White Coat Burning. It’s exactly what it sounds like – we burned our short student coats since we don’t need them anymore! I actually didn’t burn mine, but I wish I had. I don’t have any other use for it at this point.
On Friday, we had graduation practice early in the morning. For the first time, it was only medical students and PhD recipients at this graduation ceremony; physical therapy had their own. Since I was number 123 out of 128 graduates, there wasn’t too much need to pay attention. You just do what the 122 people in front of you do! Joking aside, it was a surreal hour – only my classmates and the deans who have guided us through all of this. The last time it would ever be just us in the room. We took a class photo at the end, and pretty much all headed off to brunch.
Friday afternoon was the awards ceremony, to keep the actual graduation ceremony from being even longer. Those of us receiving awards knew in advance and could tell our families, and I was honored to get my honor cords to wear for being a member of GHHS. My aunts and grandparents made it into town just in the nick of time and were able to be a part.
Don’t worry – the party didn’t stop there! After a wardrobe change (because when you can wear five dresses in three days, why wouldn’t you?) and a much-needed nap, my parents and I gathered my grandparents for an adults-only reception at the East Ridge Country Club. The school put it on, and the classes of ’73 and ’78 had their class reunions there the same night. Those classes graduated about thirty students, with only two or three girls in each. Medicine has come a long way!
We had drinks and hor d’oeuvres and visited and took lots of photos. Thankfully, the party didn’t last too late, since the next day promised to be even longer.
Graduation for the Class of 2018 was at 10 am at the Centenary Gold Dome here in Shreveport. We made a quick stop at the parking lot next to the billboard for that first photo and then headed to the ceremony. I had to be there forty-five minutes before the start in order to get our hoods draped properly and get in line and take selfies; all important things, you know.
The whole ceremony is a bit of a blur, looking back on it. I remember it being warm in all the regalia, and waving to my family in the crowd when I entered in the processional. The place was full – everyone’s friends and family turned out in full force. Dr. DeSha, beloved anatomy professor who has taught here for forty-plus years, was the guest speaker. A couple more awards were given (which should have been given at the awards ceremony, in all of our opinion), and then they got started conferring degrees. PhD’s went first, then MDs. For the first time, they hooded us right before stepping on stage. More ceremonial, I suppose. I remember being hooded, then pausing until my name was called. Imagine – “Doctor Melanie Claire Watt” (in a lovely British accent). I was a bit in awe of it and almost forgot to move until my name was done being called. At the end, all back in our seats, I recall having this moment of hugging each other and congratulating the people around us. No one ever told us to turn our tassels, so we simply decided to do it on our own.
A photographer captured these photos right as we were waiting to walk across the stage. I scrolled through all those of my classmates photos and noticed something in common. We all have this peaceful, hopeful look on our faces. This great hurdle has been completed and we are ready for what’s to come.
You may notice the black ribbons pinned to our robes. They’re in honor of a classmate we lost late last fall. I don’t yet have the words to put to that loss, but I believe we honored him in the best way we knew how.
There is no great transition from that, but the ceremony ended, we took a few photos (we were all hot, hungry and cranky) and I returned my regalia (all rented, blessedly). Mom had organized a small party back at our house to celebrate both my sister and me. Olivia graduated cum laude from LSUS two weeks prior but opted not to walk in the ceremony, so this was our chance to celebrate her too. In miraculous timing, her degree was delivered to the front door just before we arrived!
After the party was a small cocktail hour for one of my classmates, then some blessed downtime before my family’s fancy dinner out. My aunts and grandparents were only in town for a short time, so dinner with just the family was a must-do.
And at the end of the four full days of celebration, I slept so good! It was a sweet, exciting time and a perfect final graduation.