June 3, 2021
Dr. Sandra Lindsay, the first person in the United States to receive the coronavirus vaccine, told the 78 graduates of the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) nursing program that she was proud of them during the 2021 nursing pinning ceremony on June 2 in Theatre One at 199 Chambers Street. Lindsay also implored anyone in the BMCC community who has not yet gotten the vaccine against the deadly virus, to do so, not only for themselves, but for their community.
“You’re entering nursing at a challenging time, but the very fact you are here today, shows how brave and unwavering you are in your commitment to your future patients, to your colleagues and to yourselves,” said Dr. Lindsay to the graduating nurses who completed their studies despite the unprecedented challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr. Lindsay, who recently completed a Doctor of Health Sciences degree from A.T. Still University, was the ceremony’s featured speaker. She got her start at BMCC, graduating from the college’s nursing program almost 27 years ago. She wore her original BMCC nursing pin to the event.
She had been invited to participate in the ceremony by nursing graduate Tracey Smith, who is also president of the student nursing association. Smith first reached out to Dr. Lindsay on Linked In, and later found her email and tried contacting her several times until eventually, she responded.
“I was so happy when she confirmed,” said Smith.
In-person event was live-streamed and available for viewing
Earlier, dressed in their crisp white uniforms, the graduates walked into the theatre to “Pomp and Circumstance.” Normally, family, friends and others would have been there to proudly cheer them on, but this year, only the graduates, faculty and administrators were in attendance—at least in person. The event was also livestreamed and is available for viewing here.
That BMCC could host the ceremony with all the graduates in attendance, was a testament to the progress made in an ongoing battle against the deadly pandemic thanks to scientific wonder of coronavirus vaccines. Last year’s pinning ceremony was a completely virtual event and throughout the past year, all BMCC academic departments—with the exception of Nursing and Respiratory Therapy courses—have been completely virtual.
Nursing Department Chair Judy Eng welcomed attendees and served as emcee throughout the ceremony. Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Erwin Wong and Vice President for Student Affairs Marva Craig were also onstage with nursing faculty who reminded the graduates that choosing to be a nurse is a special calling.
President Anthony Munroe offered welcoming remarks and pointed out the global impact Dr. Lindsay has had in the battle against Covid-19.
“As you all know, Dr. Lindsay made history by becoming the first person in the United States to receive the vaccine against the coronavirus,” said President Munroe. “She’s one of your own, she made history and she inspired millions,” he told the graduates who stood in applause. “Nurse Lindsay is an example of leadership, perseverance, sacrifice, determination and excellence, and we are all very proud to call her a member of the BMCC family.”
Nurses are the backbone of healthcare
Dr. Lindsay was also awarded the college’s presidential medal which will be shared in the virtual commencement ceremony on June 4.
The president told the nursing graduates that they are embarking on a career that has seen significant change because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Nurses are the backbone of healthcare,” said President Munroe.
After the graduates received their pins, they each took each took a hand-held battery powered “lamp of knowledge” back to their seats. Traditionally, the lighting of the lamps would take place on stage, but this year, in an effort to maintain social distancing, the graduates completed the ritual from their seats.
Looking out into rows of lights from the stage, Professor Eng told the graduates that the ritual was just as beautiful as it had been in year’s past.
The BMCC nursing graduates will be in great demand once they successfully complete their National Council Licensure Examination and enter the labor market. The projected increase in employment from now until 2029 is expected to be up seven percent, compared to just four percent for other professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Nonetheless, Covid-19 has presented the profession with numerous challenges.
“The pandemic has been a very tough teacher,” said Dr. Lindsay. “Covid-19 has changed our role as nurses. It has amplified our responsibilities.”
Nurses are up to the task, the strength is there, Lindsay said of nurses. She also used the moment to encourage those graduates who haven’t already, to get vaccinated, not only for their patients, but also for themselves and those around them.
We all have to do our part to eradicate Covid-19
“It should be natural choice for us to get vaccinated because it’s how we look out for each other,” said Dr. Lindsay. “It gives us a chance to protect ourselves, our healthcare workers and our family and friends. It’s an opportunity to grab onto a much brighter future after a very dark year.”
Graduate Tracey Smith said she had been inspired by Lindsay’s braveness when she first read about saw her getting the vaccine. Smith, who has been accepted to SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University and plans to complete a masters degree in pediatric nursing, called Dr. Lindsay “the face of the Covid-19 vaccine.”
“She can attest to the safety of the vaccine,” said Smith. “She can help our new graduate nurses and the BMCC community at large to understand how this vaccine is working to protect us and the importance of mass vaccinations nationwide.”
Dr. Lindsay, who worked as a critical care nurse throughout the pandemic said it’s important to remember that although life feels more normal now, Covid-19 is still with us.
“It’s not gone,” said Lindsay. “I was vaccinated back in December and here I am today, feeling well, doing well. All BMCC graduates are role models. Nurses going out into the field are role models for patients who will look up to you as you model the behavior you want to see in the world.”
She said as individuals, we are all part of a larger community.
“If we care about our community and we care about each other, we have to all do our part to eradicate this virus once and for all,” said Dr. Lindsay. “If we still have people who are unvaccinated, we won’t get to what experts call herd immunity and there is potential that variants could come back. We have seen how ruthless these variants can be, and they will win, if we are in a race against the variants.”
There are rewards to being vaccinated.
“If you get vaccinated, you can back to things you love. You can get closer to your family and friends. So please, please, please — get vaccinated.”
To see the full list of graduates and other recognitions click here.
For more about the BMCC nursing program, click here.
- In-person ceremony celebrates 78 graduates of BMCC nursing program
- Lindsay, first person vaccinated against Covid-19 in USA, is keynote speaker
- Graduates attend event in person, while family and friends watch livestream