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Values, Vision and Courage
May 29, 2014
Graduates of Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Dental Medicine, along with faculty, families and friends, listened to HMS keynote speaker Vivek Murthy, HMS instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, speak of the importance of finding one’s unique vision and having the courage to apply it to the “singular core value” of improving the lives of patients.
The idea of service to this overarching vision was a consistent theme of speakers at the May 29 Class Day ceremonies on the Quad. Speakers also reminded the new physicians and dentists that they now were prepared to begin their work on improving the lives of patients partly because of the support and encouragement they had received over the years leading up to this day. Excerpts from Class Day speeches appear below.
Harvard Medical School Keynote Speaker Vivek Murthy
Murthy expanded on what it means to stand up for personal values, noting that it would not always be easy but would always be important. He emphasized why healers must heed the lessons their patients teach and the importance of having the courage to stay true to one’s core values.
“Class of 2014, as you go forth to begin your lives as physicians and dentists, as you ponder the great challenges that loom before our patients and our country, as you consider how you will respond to these calls to action, remember this: the world needs dreamers and doers. It needs doctors and dentists who can imagine the world as it should be and who have the courage to step forward with open minds, clear eyes and full hearts to transform those dreams into reality.
“More than ever, the world needs you.
“There are those who might tell you that you are too young and inexperienced to solve the problems we face. But when I hear such views, I think of the medical students and residents on this campus who launched a movement to revitalize primary care. I think about the young entrepreneurs who are employing big data analytics to improve quality of care. And I think of the many students who have served in free clinics in some of the poorest parts of America and the world because you believed it was not enough to talk about disparities but to be part of the solution.
“So I challenge you to find your vision and stand firmly by your values as you build your careers. Standing up for your vision and values means you have to remain standing, especially in the face of hardship. It won’t be easy. But it’s your job. It’s who you are now. If you build a life on your values and your unique vision, you will change the world. And you will inspire others to do the same. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Building on the theme of improving the lives of patients, HMS Dean Jeffrey Flier and HSDM Dean Bruce Donoff assured the graduates that they were now well prepared to take on this responsibility.
Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey S. Flier
“Four, five, or a few more years ago, you put on white coats. After today, most of you will continue to wear white coats. These coats will be different, however. For one thing, they will be longer! But they will now have your name emblazoned on the pocket.
“Your name, followed by two letters: M D.
“Those letters should be a source of pride. They should also be a cause for humility, for you will now be responsible for the well-being of your fellow human beings. You, as this School’s mission attests, are now part of a community known for new ideas and new leadership, each in the service of alleviating suffering and disease.
“This responsibility, this membership in the HMS community, may seem daunting, but it shouldn’t. You have been well trained and mentored for this role. You are prepared … and you can always draw support from each other, from this School, and from the generations of proud HMS alumni upon whose sturdy shoulders you stand.
“HMS graduates have a deep tradition of amazing accomplishments. I, and our entire faculty, look forward to being astonished by yours.”
Harvard School of Dental Medicine Dean R. Bruce Donoff
“I expect that each of you graduating today will, in your own way, contribute to making the world a better place. We, the faculty, have been privileged to help you learn, grow, and develop your potential up to this point; the rest is up to you.
“As you leave us, imagine dental medicine and oral health of the future. Imagine the equitable health care of the future. And imagine your own future. Although this future is about you and what you make of it in following your passion, it’s also—and even more importantly—about your place in the world and what you make of that place in contributing to an improved society. Always remember that we are privileged to take care of people. Treat them well, treat them kindly, and treat them with respect. Above all, treat them all equally, with one high standard of care.
“Your achievements should make you very proud. Those who have helped you reach this day, those who have nurtured and sustained you through your years here, deservedly share that pride. And of course, the whole HSDM community and I feel no small measure of joy and pride in your accomplishments as well. I look forward to your futures, and I know we will hear of your successes. Congratulations, Class of 2014. I hope that your memories of HSDM and HMS will always remain a treasured part of who you are and who you become.”
Harvard Medical School Graduates
Norman Winn Gayle Seay
“To be honest, inheriting a Mount Everest of Stafford loans has been worth it if only to have been surrounded by so many remarkable people. With all due respect, I’m not talking about the illustrious faculty: I’m talking about you, the students. We have worked, we have played, we have laughed, we have cried, and much to my chagrin we have sung and danced too.
“In summary, you are all wonderful people who have done really stupid things. But we are special people on account of our special moments. May we cherish them; let them remind us of the humbling reality that while we have come so far there is still so much to learn and improve upon. May they compel us to be patient with and forgiving of our coworkers and underlings. Most of all, may we continue to share them so that, in hearing each other’s follies, we may cut ourselves some slack. Congratulations, Class of 2014. I will miss you.”
We will all occasionally feel that unsettling feeling of inadequacy as we perfect ourselves in our chosen disciplines. Things happen, we are human, we make mistakes. But more important, our success will be defined by how we deal with these setbacks, and our ability to use them as learning experiences. You don’t have to be the smartest, but you have to be smart in whatever you are doing. “The best” is relative. Winners don’t always win, and rather than counting each win and loss, add the magnitudes of each—because it’s not about winning every time, it’s about success. One of my mentors once told me, out of the blue, ‘Kristina, you’re great!’ And I think it’s just something that you need to hear sometimes. So I say to you all, YOU are great. We are ALL great—and as long as we remember that, we will be successful in our respective residencies and careers.
Harvard School of Dental Medicine Graduate
“The success you have had will open up amazing opportunities for all of you. Just remember not to let that success get to your head. We are all here today to celebrate our achievement, and that celebration is well deserved. But while our accomplishments have much to do with hard work, we must also attribute them to some good fortune. Every success story has its share of well-timed coincidences and moments when you were just in the right place at the right time. Take pride in your accomplishments, but also take time to reflect on your lucky breaks. Because not everyone gets them.
“Congratulations again to everyone graduating and to those of you in the audience watching your loved ones up here, enjoying the realization of a goal they set many years ago. I look forward to seeing the amazing things you accomplish in the next phase of your career.”