What Defines You
Senator Antoine, Chancellor Modica, University Deans, Parents, guests, Ladies and gentlemen… and my fellow classmates.
It is a tremendous and humbling honor to be here with you today. As a graduate of SGU, this is truly great to return to GRENADA, my 2nd home, to address my mentors, peers and you – my new colleagues in medicine. My debt of gratitude to this institution cannot be quantified. Equally large is my respect and sense of responsibility to you – the life blood and future of this institution.
I am like you. I once sat where you now sit – eager and anxious at the start of medical school. I am a graduate of SGUSOM who has been blessed with unexpected opportunity and achievements beyond my early expectations. The years and accomplishments have come fast, but at a moment like that, one can only pause and wonder how did I get here; why me? From this day forward you are medical students. Today you can write MSI after your name…then MS2, 3, 4 until you can finally place an MD after your name. Ladies and gentlemen you will earn the alphabet soup that follows your name thru blood, sweat, and tears – and tuition. You give us 4.5 years of excellence and we will give you an MD and a world that desparately needs your compassion intellect and skill. Along with this degree comes a wealth of opportunity, public stature, responsibility and a life of purpose and clarity.
Every MSI and Graduate of SGUSOM started their professional pathway with this great burden of challenge in front of them. Ive too have been rejected, doubted, advised to go elsewhere; but here we are … meeting the challenge. For this I applaud you and warn you – it will only get worse from here on out.
This summer I heard a troubled sports figure quote Mohandes Gandhi, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. ” The spirt of adversity resonates with many graduates of St. Georges Univ School of Medicine. More important has been their consistent ability to recognize adversity, then overcome and master it. This is a shared adventure that you too have signed on to.
Adventure- defined as act involving risk or surprise. So for many of us our first adventure was this weekends travel to Grenada during Hurricaine Dean. Interminable delays, cancellations, airport attitudes, bad food, etc. As a pampered 1st class 200,000 mile a year traveler I would normally have been as irate and perturbed as any, but watching our new students and their families was a curious and familiar event and hence I watched much of this with great amazement. The disconcerted, disconnected med student travelor was not me, but was now you. Most coped, some behaved badly and thankfully some upper classmen were present to mollify the angst. I proudly thought, their first lesson has begun.
“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. “
Events such as these, maybe trying, but they are also formative. You will be faced with may equally difficult and unfathomable predictaments in your medical lives. These events will test your metal as a person and a physician. In my first trip to SGU and Grenada, the flight was also delayed and we arrived without any luggage. Being a hefty guy finding replacement clothing in downtown St. Georges was impossible. However, one clothing shop did have an XL pair of baggy swim shorts for me. Unfortunately they were PINK.
“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. “
Adventures are about the unexpected.
Some adventures are the result of will, others by fate, some by scholarship. Robert Louis Stevenson once said “The most beautiful adventures are not those we go to seek”. St. Georges University and medical school will introduce you to many new and very real adventures. Whether you like it or not, they define you. They become great when you rise to the occasion and master it. They become sadly memorable, and deeply educational when we fail to control or manage them. So your medical education and your medical lives will be a curious interplay of great triumph and occasional disappointment.
While you’ve all chosen medicine because of your love of mankind, your desires to alleviate suffering and hopes for an effectively applied intellect, you’ve overlooked a common truth – that bad things happen to good people. That’s right….you’ve all chosen to go into the bad news biz. “Mrs Swanson, your husband just died 20 minutes ago in the OR” or “Mr Raffert you have pancreatic cancer and only 4 months to live” or “Frank….to have the worse case of bad breath Ive ever witnessed. Can you wait outside … no I mean outside the building, while I figure out what we are going to do”. The patients will be both good and bad, young and poor, family and foe, cooperative or unkind. The only constant is you and what you bring to the table – your intellect, your effort and your kindness. But where do these skills come from?
A recent presidential debate introduced a question about the power of prayer. Most candidates were unsure of the preventative power of prayer, but all agreed on the healing capacity of prayer. Prayer or thoughtful introspection often helps you find the strength to endure that which was previously unthinkable. There is no chapter, textbook, formula or pat answers for the tough stuff in life or medicine. Yet, you (the doctor) will be expected to provide wisdom, solace and leadership during the difficult moments of death and disease.
Do not wrongly consider these difficulties, challenges and inconveniences. Instead, recognize that great lessons start here in Grenada (often disguised as adventures and challenges) and will continue throughout your education and career. Each is an opportunity for you to learn and to master adversity. You are now in a position of great influence. In times of trouble, many will come to you…the MS1,2,3,4 or MD – Because your suppose to know. For goodness sake you got a 27 on the MCAT!! Much is expected of you….please do not disappoint me, or your mother or yourself.
In the course of these adventures you will be sharing your path of enlightenment and greatness with your classmates, your family, your faculty. Our faculty is superb. You should expect much from them as they expect much of you. The notoriety of our faculty is evident. The national weather service has decided to name its hurricanes after our faculty. This weekends hurricane was an attempt to honor our many notable Deans. Faculty, family and classmates – these are the people who will deliver you, the coat tails you will need to grab onto at times. Be good to them, love them, show them your appreciation and above all listen to them. While you may be the “doctor” or the MSII – your still the guy or girl who cant clean your room, balance a check book or burn water on the stove.
Some Advice for Entering Freshmen.
1) SLOW DOWN & CHILL – don’t raise your voice or blood pressure. Respect and action are more easily achieved with a smile than a shout of crazed urgency. Your NY minute does not register on a west Indian clock. Realize that a 4 wk a transition period is needed before youll calm down enough to understand the pace, the pronounciations and the policies of this island and school.
2) Welcome to bug island. We have bugs the size of fondue pots. There were here first and …oh and theyre here on scholarship. Don’t waste time trying to kill them. Divert them and ignore them
3) Stop talking dollars & start talkin EC ($10US = 26EC OR 10EC.=$3.73US)
4) If at 1st you dont succeed – blame your roommate.
5) When the going gets tough – the tough goes for a run, or goes to kickboxing class. Theres true wisdom in the healthy mind and healthy body connection. Make yourself healthy for a lifetime of greatness. It starts here where you only need to focus on your health and scholastic achievement.
6) True Blue is not Grenada. – Get to know Grenada; read a book, visit the museum, find a get a favorite waiter; go to church; read the paper watch videos Heartbreak ridge or Island in the Sun. It would be a wasted education if you left grenada without knowing grenada.
7) Learn how to learn. Make use of the universities Department of Educational Services (DES).
8) Realize that how you treat each other today will predict how you will treat your patients in the future. Kindness and respect are skills that need constant attention, especially while living as guests in grenada
9) Just show up. Seventy percent of success in life is showing up (Woody Allen).
10) Medicine will be your life and work – not your lifes work. Don’t confuse the two. Be good at your work, but work at being a good man, woman, parent, spouse etc. The best physician is a well rounded being.
This White Coat ceremony was started by the Arnold P Gold Foundation to impress upon students the importance of compassion, humility and dedication to the practice of medicine. This ceremony bookends to the Hippocratic Oath and graduation and signifies your desire and dedication to the profession.
The white coat itself is emblematic of the scholar, physician and medicine. The challenge of laboratory studies, the high standards of practice and the stately demeanor of the diagnostician and healer. That’s one crazy monochromatic coat. Wearing that coat assigns great responsibility – to your community, your family and yourself.
Great Physicians are foremost great people. They are generous, kind, selfless, gregarious and good looking too. In essence they are humanists. The Arnold P Gold Foundation also established the Gold Humanism Honor Society. During your tenure here you will hear of SGU efforts to foster and acknowledge humanism during your medical education. Students will be encouraged to partake in activities outside of the classroom or hospital that result in substantive benefit to their community and fellow man. Such commitment to a humanitarian activities while matriculated as a SGUSOM student may be rewarded by inclusion in the Gold Humanism Honor Society.
In closing, I hope that you will realize that Adversity and Adventure will define, develop and complete you as a person and physician. Recognize lifes challenges – meet them, master them and most of all, enjoy them!
“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time. “
Jack London (1876 – 1916), Jack London’s Tales of Adventure