The University of Pikeville – Kentucky College of Optometry and Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine celebrates the class of 2021

Gathering at the Appalachian Wireless Arena, graduates, faculty, families and friends celebrated the Commencement ceremonies of the University of Pikeville – Kentucky College of Optometry and Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine on Saturday, May 1. 

UPIKE honored the academic achievements of 51 Doctors of Optometry and 135 Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine during the ceremony. 

Masks were required at the ticketed event along with additional COVID-19 safety measures for all graduates and guests, including temperature checks and social distancing. Graduates and families who preferred to celebrate virtually were able to watch the ceremonies via livestream.

A familiar face welcomed the twenty-first commencement of KYCOM and, for the second time,  KYCO with UPIKE President Burton J. Webb, Ph.D. Webb addressed a tremendous group of physicians and optometric servants who serve the people throughout central Appalachia.

“As the population ages, healthcare changes will result in an increased demand for medical care. Each of you sitting before us today have an incredible opportunity,” said Webb. “You have the chance to change lives and impact society for the good of mankind.”

Michael Bacigalupi, O.D., M.S., FAAO, FNAP, dean of KYCO is proud to hold the first in-person commencement for KYCO with colleagues from KYCOM and is confident that the students have mastered the knowledge, skills and abilities to protect and serve the eye and vision needs of their patients during their four years at KYCO.

“To the Class of 2021 – you have committed yourselves, worked hard and persevered through many unexpected challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Know that you are well-prepared to care for your patients,” said Bacigalupi. “I am excited to see all of the wonderful things that you will accomplish in your careers. Go out into the world and always do the right thing. Be brave and be bold, but never lose compassion for your patients.”

Dean of KYCOM, Dana Shaffer, D.O., FACOFP dist., FAOGME, encouraged the graduates to take their hard-earned degree and go into the world and do something great.

“You have committed yourselves and are extremely well prepared to make the world a healthier place for our fellow human beings,” said Shaffer. “A degree in osteopathic medicine is much more than the accumulation of years of hard work or a fancy piece of parchment; it’s a covenant, a pledge to respond deeply to not only the medical needs of your patients but to their entirety as human beings. We hope your deep connections to service will bring you personal happiness and professional fulfillment.”

Ancil W. Lewis, chief executive officer of Big Sandy Health Care, Inc., delivered the keynote address for both colleges.

Lewis has nearly 50 years of experience working in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, public health departments, mental health agencies and primary care clinics. He has over 40 years of experience in healthcare management. Lewis has taught many sociology, business, and healthcare management courses at colleges and universities, including the University of Pikeville, and is an outspoken proponent of improved health services for children.

“Collectively, these graduates will make a major contribution to the healthcare delivery system in Kentucky and across the nation,” said Lewis. “What the University of Pikeville has accomplished is phenomenal. This is the community and people that move mountains.”

KYCO graduate and Valedictorian Emily Williams, O.D., passions align with KYCO’s mission and dedication of service in rural areas.

“The experiences that I have had at KYCO with rural optometry will benefit me going forward in my career,” said Williams. “KYCO has prepared me with the expanded scope of optometry practice and learned surgical procedures that will advance the future of optometry.”

Graduating from KYCOM, Mustafa Basree, D.O., chose to become a physician to serve the community and aid patients with cancer and wishes to practice in a medically underserved area.

“KYCOM offers many resources and equips students with all the skills that you need to be a successful physician,” said Basree. “I am grateful for the deep connections I have made while attending KYCOM.”

For more ceremony information, visit