Virtual Hooding Ceremony Celebrates New Doctors Amid Pandemic

May 14, 2020

Coverage of novel coronavirus is supported by the Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D., Project for Visualizing Science, a science reporting project from the Reynolds School of Journalism.

A hooding ceremony is a celebratory event steeped in tradition. For medical students, it’s the culmination of years of hard work. As a result of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine held a virtual hooding for the 63 members of the 2020 graduating class. The pride, hope and joy conferred on graduates were still on full display on the screen.

Med school graduate Tarra Becher reflects on what it’s like to finish her program and head into a completely new medical landscape, one that has been changed by a pandemic. Even though Becher is disappointed that it wasn’t possible to have an in-person ceremony, she enjoyed having her two young sons participate.

Dr. Tarra Becher is part of the UNR Med School 2020 graduating class. She participated in the virtual hooding with her husband and two children.
Credit courtesy of Tarra Becher

“Normally for the hooding ceremony, each candidate who's up for their MD would be hooded by either another physician or a family member on stage during the graduation,” Becher said. “However, because we're having the virtual graduation ceremony this year, we were able to take a picture of ourselves being hooded by a family member, and I was actually able to be hooded by my husband and my two young sons, which was very special.”

Becher grew up primarily in Reno and will continue her psychiatry residency with the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine.

“During my third-year rotations, I just saw that there was such a great need for psychiatry here in our community, as well as everywhere else in the country, and I just found that I really enjoyed that aspect of medicine,” Becher explained. “You got to know people on such a personal level, and I felt like you could really help them as a whole person, and that was just something that I really felt connected to.”

The pandemic has sparked more anxiety as a result of economic uncertainty and social isolation. Becher said there will be an increased need for mental health care, and she’s looking forward to helping people in the community during this public health crisis.

“I'm excited to be able to enter this field right now. ... It's so different to be going through something that everyone in the world is sort of going through, this similar challenge right now,” Becher said. “So I think that it's something that's going to connect everyone, and make it easier to feel what other people are feeling.”

The virtual hooding ceremony enabled Becher to celebrate with her extended family, who are spread out across the globe.

“I'm the youngest of six kids and my family's all over the world, and we are all going to do a Zoom call so that everybody can take part in my graduation, which I think has kind of a silver lining of this whole thing. If it were not a virtual graduation, most of my siblings would not be able to participate,” Becher said. “So that's exciting to me. And then my husband and I are just going to have a nice dinner at home after with the kids.”

About a fifth of the 2020 graduating class is remaining in Nevada for some part of their residency training. Research shows that physicians are more apt to remain in the community where they completed their residency program. Having more residents remain in the state is especially critical since there’s a doctor shortage. Nevada is ranked 48th in the nation for the number of primary care doctors per capita.