PEORIA — Though the mood was celebratory during Saturday’s convocation ceremony for the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria’s class of 2019, they did not forget the one classmate who wasn’t there.
Pat Newcomer died of suicide more than two years ago, during his second year in medical school.
“Everyone was a friend of Pat’s,” said Dr. Elizabeth Rowland after the ceremony. “We met through medical school, when we were M1s in Champaign. Once you were friends with Pat, you were friends for life.”
Rowland spoke about Newcomer during the convocation ceremony at the Peoria Civic Center. She described a caring man who always went above and beyond for others.
Among the hundreds of friends and family members attending the ceremony were Newcomer’s parents, Tim and Amy, of Pittsburgh, and sister, Gretchen, of Chicago. Everyone in the Newcomer family is a nurse, including their oldest son, Matt, said Tim Newcomer.
“Pat was gonna be our first doctor,” he said.
Pat earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame in 2012 and a master’s degree at Loyola University in 2014. He was attending medical school on an Army scholarship and planned to go on active duty after medical school, said his mother. Pat lived a busy life, which helped him deal with the depression he had been suffering for about seven years, said his mother.
“I think school helped him — it came very easy for him,” she said.
Though he was getting professional help, in the end it wasn’t enough. Pat died Feb. 12, 2017. His passing was a tremendous shock for his classmates, which ultimately led to a better understanding about what is really important in life, said Rowland
“At Pat’s memorial services we never spoke of his exam scores, the hours he spent in the library studying,” said Rowland during her speech. “Instead, at Pat’s end here on earth, we talked about ... his willingness to go beyond measure to show his support for others … his focus on being there for others for the important days in their lives … his lighthearted approach of seeking joy in the littlest of things.”
Other speakers also encouraged a healthy life/work balance to students going forward in their lives as they begin residencies all over the country. Two of the new graduates will soon be getting married — Dr. Gus Demanes, a Peoria native, and Dr. Abriella Stone, of Las Vegas. The pair will be doing their residencies at UCLA Medical Center in California.
Thirteen of the graduates will remain in Illinois, and six of them are staying in Peoria.
“It was my first choice,” said Dr. Paige Maurer while standing outside the auditorium with her family after graduation. “I wanted to stay close because of the support system I have here with my family, and they have an excellent radiology program here. I thought it was the perfect fit for me.”
Paige is the sixth doctor in her family. Her grandfather, Dr. Albert Maurer, began the family tradition. He practiced medicine in Hopedale for many years and began teaching at UICOMP not long after it opened in 1970.
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.