One of the highlights of my residency interview season was meeting alumni of our school. These encounters were among the most pleasant on the interview trail because the conversations would frequently turn to the Yale system. Having represented my colleagues on the school-wide Educational Policy Committee during medical school, I had the special privilege of helping carry out the committee’s charge to interpret the philosophy of the Yale system and articulate its manifestation amid the challenges of modern medical education. With a certain pride and responsibility, I assured my alumni interviewers that indeed, there are still no class rankings or attendance lists; and yes, the thesis requirement still runs the graduating class a bit ragged around this time of year.

The unexpected reward from these interviews was discovering what happens after Yale. On the cusp of my own graduation I have wondered whether the Yale system and its pillars of self-motivated learning and innovation will still matter a few months from now. The answer, from the experiences of those who have come through the Sterling Hall of Medicine before me, is a remarkable ‘yes.’ One interviewer demonstrated the iPhone app he had designed to help patients track their lab results over time. Another described the fruitful collaborations she has made with faculty across her university to improve health outreach in the community. Another showed me pictures from her recent exhibition of paintings—a hobby she developed during an elective course at the Yale School of Art. What binds their stories together is not that Yale taught them how to program software, or find collaborators, or apply oil to canvas. These alumni suggested to me that the Yale system fostered an environment that encourages lifelong opportunities to augment their learning. They became physicians alongside the exploration of complementary interests, not in spite of it.

As I prepare to retire my short white coat, I recognize now that the three words emblazoned across the left pocket—Yale Medical Student—represent much more than the position I have held for four years. I have been deeply inspired by the stories of these former students of medicine at Yale, and I am hopeful that my career as a physician will continue to be shaped by the Yale system, which has distinguished the school for over 80 years—and, as I have come to understand, finds new meaning in the lives of its graduates.

Kevin Koo, M.D. ’13
New Haven, Conn.