In 1991, a new Harvard Medical School graduate named George Q. Daley sat under a tent on the HMS Quad, listening to Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine, deliver the keynote lecture.
Twenty-six years later, on May 25, 2017, Daley, now dean of HMS, stood on the other side of the podium to give his own Class Day keynote address, his first as dean.
“My call to each of you is to always preserve the ideals that first drew you to medicine and to a life of service,” Daley told the HMS and Harvard School of Dental Medicine Class of 2017. “The purpose of your medical education is to enable you to serve the world.”
For the next 20 minutes, as rain and wind rattled the Class Day tent, Daley emphasized the unpredictable future of medicine and the importance of committing to a career in service to human health.
From devising innovative health care delivery solutions to translating research discoveries into new cures for disease, Daley called attention to the many paths this year’s graduates will forge through a rapidly evolving biomedical landscape.
The opportunities and challenges ahead underscore the need for lifelong learning that the School’s Pathways curriculum was designed to catalyze, he said.
“You arrived in our community with your own fierce passion to innovate, lead and heal. We have strived to foster in you a zeal for lifelong learning,” Daley said. “Your medical education must never stop.”
“The purpose of your medical education is to enable you to serve the world.” —George Q. Daley
But an excellent education isn’t the whole story, said Daley; striving to improve global health and safeguard the richness of human life also requires a deep sense of altruism.
“As physicians and scientists, remember that it is our privilege to serve others, our responsibility to ease pain and suffering and our calling to advance health and wellness for our patients,” he said.
Daley shared research results that show that helping others helps the givers, too, boosting happiness and productivity and even lengthening the lifespan. Fortunately, he said, medicine provides ample opportunities to give to others and to enjoy the intangible benefits of giving.
“I can’t think of a profession more imbued with the opportunity for rewarding experiences than medicine,” Daley said. “After all, medicine touches on so many aspects of a fulfilling life: learning, puzzling, connecting, giving, giving the gift of health and sometimes giving the gift of life itself.”
In closing, Daley entreated the Class of 2017 to find what will give their lives meaning, set ambitious goals, stay true to their ideals and consider how they will apply their skills and empathy toward bettering the world.
“It’s unquestionable,” he said. “The world needs the best you’ve got to give: your determination, your creativity, your intellect, your compassion and your idealism. I trust that you will do well and contribute much. I have faith that we have prepared you well.”