Congratulations to the new graduates of the Yale Traditional Internal Medicine Residency. Here’s my speech from Tuesday night. We have another big week coming up with our new interns arriving for orientation on June 11!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone.
June 4, 2019
Dr. Desir, Dr. Quagliarello, faculty, staff, residents, friends and families: welcome to graduation 2019!
We gather tonight to honor the accomplishments of our preliminary interns, physician scientists, and categorical graduates, whose training with us is nearing an end. Each of you has worked tirelessly to reach this moment, with years of study, countless exams, and endless hours in the clinic and at the bedside. You’ve built mountains of medical knowledge, you’ve honed sharp clinical skills, and you’ve became professionals: self-reliant, confident, committed, honest, and compassionate. We set high expectations for each of you and you’ve soared to meet those expectations. We’re so proud of you!
When our residency succeeds, we succeed together. It starts with our dedicated faculty. If you are a faculty member, please rise! You are amongst the most gifted, skilled, and devoted medical faculty anywhere. Thank you for teaching our residents, for guiding them, and for mentoring them. Let’s give our faculty a round of applause!
Let’s acknowledge our spectacular staff. If you are a staff member, please rise! You are selfless, dedicated, professionals- too often under-appreciated, working behind the scenes, ensuring we are paid and fed and, most of all, able focus on learning and caring for our patients. Thank you for everything you do. Let’s give our staff a round of applause!
And where would any of us be without friends and family? If you are a friend or relative of a resident please stand! You raised our residents, you nourished them, you encouraged them, and you waited patiently for them to come home. In uncertain times, you were there with a hug, a phone call, and a warm meal. On this wonderful occasion, we thank you. Thank you for sharing your daughters and sons with us, your wives and husbands, your sisters and brothers, your mommies and daddies, your significant others, your BFFs. Let’s give our friends and families a round of applause!
Will our Chief Residents please rise? As I wrote on Sunday, what a spectacular year we’ve had. Your phenomenal teaching skills, your creativity, your wise counsel, your utter devotion to your residents, and your faith in the talent and goodness of our Housestaff inspire us. Thank you for the teaching, the role modeling, the mentoring, the honesty, and for the long hours you devoted to your work. Let’s give our Chiefs a round of applause!
If you are a non-graduating intern or resident, please rise. You’ve completed a memorable year- a year of unparalleled learning, community building, phenomenal patient care, teaching, and science. You’ve made our residency better in so many ways- from journal clubs, to recruitment, to the Beeson Beat, to the Beeson Bombers, to Arts Night, to the curriculum committee, to distinction leadership, to the Executive Council, to the PEC. Your own graduation is not so far off! Let’s give our non-graduating residents a round of applause!
Finally, if you are graduating tonight, please rise! Our residency’s mission, as you all know, is to create a training program which is rigorous and humane. A program dedicated to the proposition that our collective accomplishments are more important than those we achieve on our own. A program that cares as much for the refugee and the homeless as it does for the fortunate. A program committed to science, to education, and to clinical excellence. A program that values autonomy, self-directed learning, and individual growth. A program that prizes cooperation over competition, diverse ideas over groupthink, and listening over speaking. You’ve accomplished great things during your training at Yale, but most importantly, you’ve dedicated yourselves to the highest ideals of medicine. You’ve made us proud. Let’s all give our graduating residents a round of applause!
Please be seated.
Graduates, I thought long and hard about the words I wanted to share with you tonight. I could explore the wonders of medical science; after all, you are starting your careers at the dawn of the age of precision medicine, telemedicine, artificial intelligence, and point-of-care ultrasound. But there will be plenty of time to discuss those topics and plenty of speakers better equipped than I to take them on.
I could delve into the existential threats facing our profession, from the rampant commercialism of the medical industrial complex to the sinister dangers created by conflicts of interest. I could disparage the tyranny of the electronic medical record, faceless bureaucracies, and the ascendence of metrics that prioritize dollars over the needs of our patients. But not tonight.
I could also talk about burnout, but I won’t. It’s not that burnout isn’t troubling, because it is; and it’s not because burnout doesn’t demand our attention, because it does. We can spend endless hours asking why so many smart, dedicated, and hardworking physicians lose their passion to serve and to care. But as our Chief Resident, Brian Persaud, likes to say, let’s put a pin in that topic for now.
Instead, tonight I want to talk to you about flourishing. As you start your careers, each of you needs to ask, what will it take for you to flourish? To look forward to each day? To walk into clinic, onto the wards, or into the ICU with joy in your heart? To know that you’re exactly where you should be, doing exactly what you were meant to do: learning, teaching, discovering, healing? To look back one day upon your decision to enter medicine and know you made the right choice? Yes, let’s talk about flourishing.
It is a gift to be a physician. You will always be employed. You will make a comfortable living. You will garner respect. You will have endless opportunities to advance science, to teach, and to improve the lives of your patients. You will wield the profound power of human touch and the equally profound power of healing words. You will diagnose, you will treat, and you will comfort. And, when your careers draw to a close, forty, fifty, even sixty years from now, you will be able to look back with satisfaction, knowing your professional lives were imbued with meaning. Yes, it is a gift to be a physician.
So, what will it take to flourish? To answer that question, I invite you to look into your hearts. No single answer applies to every one of you, but let me propose three general strategies that apply to all.
First, work with colleagues who share your ideals- colleagues who are optimistic about medicine’s future, who collaborate, who encourage open and honest dialog, who value diversity and originality. If I flourish in my position, it’s because I work with phenomenal leadership, supremely talented APDs, devoted faculty and staff, and, of course, all of you.
Second, take care of yourselves and those you care about. Eat, sleep, and exercise. In the words of the immortal poem, “Desiderata,” “be gentle with yourself.” Nourish family and friendships- surround yourselves with people who love you, and remember to love them back. Just as spring flowers depend on water and sunlight to blossom, you need to tend to yourselves and those you love in order to flourish.
Third, always remember why you chose this profession. Remember the ideals you brought to Yale when you first arrived, newly minted doctors, just a short time ago. Those ideals live on, and I challenge you to honor them every moment of your professional lives. You have a gift to share. As physicians, you have the priceless opportunity to use your skills and compassion to heal and to comfort. Wherever your career takes you, you must share your gift.
The days ahead will be long, and sometimes the challenges will seem overwhelming. You may even ask yourselves sometimes why you didn’t choose a simpler path. But those moments of doubt inevitably pass. They pass when you make a medical discovery. They pass when your students and residents understand a complicated concept because you explained it so clearly. And, most importantly, they pass when your patient looks into your eyes, relieved and grateful, for the care you’ve provided. These sublime moments will come to you again and again; they will fill you with gratitude; they will bring you joy; and they will erase any doubt whatsoever that you’ve chosen the right path.
This, then, is the key to flourishing as internists. Surround yourselves with wonderful people, take care of yourselves and your loved ones, and, above all, remember why you chose to become doctors. Always remember: An ailing world needs you to share your gifts, to cure when you can, to heal whenever possible, to comfort always.
Tonight, you will leave this celebration as graduates of the Yale Traditional Internal Medicine Residency. You will join a long tradition of alumni who share your ideals, your commitment, and your passion for internal medicine. I am immensely proud of each one of you tonight, and I can’t wait to watch you flourish for many years to come.