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Class speakers ready to address UMass Chan’s 51st Commencement

Medical student Jesse Sardell, MD/PhD student Julie Hugunin, and nursing PhD student Jennifer Costa, RN, APRN, PPCNP-BC, will serve as class speakers for their respective schools at UMass Chan Medical School’s 51st Commencement on Sunday, June 2.

All three speakers grew up in Massachusetts and, coincidentally, are entering the field of pediatrics.

“There were a lot of people nominated who represent the best that UMass Chan has to offer,” said Sardell, chosen by his classmates to represent the T.H. Chan School of Medicine. “To be selected to speak is humbling.”

The Richmond local, who studied biology at Williams College and will begin his pediatrics residency at UMass Chan in July, decided to attend medical school after working as a quality control technician at Nuclea Biotechnologies in Cambridge and as a clinical research associate at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Being able to look at science and help kids, teens and their parents understand everything that’s happening to them and what we can do for them is the most meaningful thing to me,” Sardell said.

Sardell co-leads the Adolescent Medicine Interest Group, and the Healer’s Art and Narratives in Medicine electives. He is also a BaccMD mentor, helping college students prepare for medical school.

Faculty members chose the Worcester-born Hugunin to represent the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Class of 2024. Hugunin traces her desire to combine medicine and research to her undergraduate years at Northeastern University when she was able to work in South Africa at a pediatric hospital and complete neurology research at Moderna.

“I think science and medicine are great because you get to work with all kinds of people and you get to constantly explore,” Hugunin said.

Working under the mentorship of Kate Lapane, PhD, professor of population & quantitative health sciences, Hugunin explored health care utilization patterns in youth with mental health conditions and the role of care coordination in these patterns of care. The American Psychiatric Association featured one of her articles during its 2022 Mental Health Conference.

“All the students and mentors at UMass Chan have really helped me grow,” said Hugunin, who is heading to Brown University for a residency in psychiatry, with plans to pursue child psychiatry and research. “I think sometimes during such intense learning, we can lose enthusiasm for science and medicine, but I’ve gained it here instead.”

Costa, who grew up in Ashland, has a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Boston College and worked as a bedside nurse in pediatric stem cell transplant at Boston Children’s Hospital. After earning a Master of Science in nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, she worked as a nurse practitioner at UMass Memorial Medical Center-Children’s Medical Center in pediatric hematology, oncology and palliative care for 15 years before enrolling at UMass Chan.

“I didn’t find nursing. Nursing found me,” said Costa. “When I was 15, my brother was diagnosed with leukemia. This diagnosis opened up a whole world of health care that I knew nothing about. That experience was formative and came at a pivotal point in my life. Seeing how nurses cared for my family and for my brother, and the importance of that, inspired me to become a nurse.”

Costa, who shared that her brother is cured, married and a proud parent of two daughters, is a clinical inquiry specialist at the Phyllis F. Cantor Center for Research in Nursing and Patient Care Services at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In this role, she facilitates the translation of nursing research into practice through the development and implementation of evidence-based practice and quality improvement projects. Her PhD dissertation explored the meaning of parent-nurse relationships in childhood cancer care.