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Saint Michael’s Medical Center Class of 2022 internal medicine residents at a recent graduation ceremony.

Since the pandemic began in 2020, each successive class of doctors graduating from the internal medicine residency program at Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark have been called the “COVID class.”

But this year’s graduating class, which started in the summer of 2019, can truly be called the COVID class, said Dr. Theodore DaCosta, the director of Saint Michael’s residency program.

“This is really the class of heroes,” Dr. DaCosta said. “This is the class that was thrown into battle just when they were starting out. They fought COVID and they grew together. They figured out themselves how to manage COVID patients. It was a very traumatizing experience and I’m sure it left scars, but it made them better physicians. I’m so proud of this class.”

Last week, 19 graduates completed their three-year internal medicine residency at Saint Michael’s, a teaching affiliate of New York Medical College. Each of the graduates were recognized during Saint Michael’s 58th Annual Certificate and Awards Ceremony.

Saint Michael’s CEO Dr. Alan Sickles told the doctors that they should be proud of their accomplishments.

“To get through residency with all the issues — including a pandemic, snow storms, floods — and come out the other side successfully is a testament to your dedication and hard work,” Dr. Sickles said.

Dr. Nichoals Baranetsky, who gave the commencement address, said residency training has always been stressful, especially the first year, but the pandemic added an additional challenge.

“You could not help your patients, you were not sure that you could protect yourself,” he said. “But you persevered, you overcame and you are here today. You developed into very good internists and it’s been a privilege to observe your professional and personal growth, both individually and as a class.”

Those who completed their residencies in internal medicine were: Eyad Ahmed, Iyad Farouji, Ormena Joseph, Bader Al Omour, Omar Al Radideh, Nilam Bhavsar, Mira Gad, Kalyan Koneru, Su Lin Lim, Ala Muhanna, Meenakski Sindhuri Nali, Byron Okwesili, Amy Paige, Khamoshi Patel, Laxminarayan Prabhakar, Mahidhar Reddy, Dawn Roach, Kundana Thimmanagari and Yew Ei Tan.

Additionally, Sarah Abdou was recognized for completing her residency in podiatric medicine and surgery and Siva Prasad Maruboyina for completing a fellowship in gastroenterology.

Several awards were given in honor of Saint Michael’s physicians who were dedicated to teaching residents.

The Dr. Peter Ho Memorial award was given to Dr.Yew Ei Tan.

The award was named after Dr. Ho, who was born in Vietnam and served as a surgeon alongside American doctors during the Vietnam War. He was an infectious disease fellow at the hospital in 1983. When he was invited by drug reps to dinner, he would only go on the condition that he be allowed to take food and bring it to a homeless shelter. Dr. Ho died in 1985 and the Saint Michael’s HIV/AIDS clinic is named in his honor.

The Dr. George Perez Achievement for Outstanding Medical Teaching was awarded to Dr. Hamid Shaaban.

The award was named after Dr. Perez, who was chief of infectious disease at Saint Michael’s until his death in 2011. Dr. Perez consistently won the best teacher award during his years at the hospital.

The Dr. Philip D’Ambola Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching was given to Dr. Muhammad Hussain.

The award was named after Dr. D’Ambola, who cast the deciding vote as a member of the hospital’s executive committee that made Saint Michael’s a teaching hospital more than a half century ago. The award was presented by his great niece, Dr. Lesly D’Ambola, who also did her residency at the hospital years ago.

Intern of the year was won by Dr. Mohammad Nabil Rayal. Residents also awarded a nurse of the year award to Mark Zanoria.