GRAD KEYNOTE 2002

Thank you Monsieur Rector Patry, Dean Walker, distinguished colleagues, family, friends, and most of all, you, the graduating class of 2002.

It is a real pleasure to be here, to be able to share in your excitement and achievement, and to have the coveted opportunity to pass on a few words of wisdom to you, as you continue in your journey.

I have to say – Congratulations to you all. Over the past four years, I have watched you grow. I have been privileged to be a part of your lives – your celebrations, your anxieties, your fears, your successes, your tragedies. You arrived into medical school, young and eager and naïve. You then found yourselves busy, at times overwhelmed, unsure what you had actually signed up for. You had second thoughts and wanted to leave, and then had third thoughts and decided to stay. You were unsure if you could do it, then you saw students in the years ahead and realized that if some of them could get through so could you. Gradually you have developed into the competent, capable, and compassionate physicians you are today. I am deeply proud of your accomplishments.

This is a true moment of celebration for all of you. The dream that you have worked towards during the past four years is now a reality. It is a real testament, both to your hard work and commitment; and to the emotional, moral, and financial support afforded by special family and friends during this time.

As many of you know, I, too, learned medicine within these same walls. I learned about more than just medicine; I learned about life.

In medical school here
  • I learned all about things such as what pheochromocytoma is, where the Circle of Willis is, and how to take arterial blood gases at three o’clock in the morning
  • I learned the true meaning of friends, as we laughed together, and cried together
  • I learned how to pull all-nighters, and not fall asleep until after I had handed in the exam papers
  • I learned that our patients can teach us as much as our teachers can
  • I learned that I will never figure out how Vijay, even back then, could know the name of every single student

Since medical school

  • I have learned that learning continues outside classroom walls
  • I have learned to be constantly appreciative of those who love me, no matter what
  • I have learned that Oreos are better than money, because you can eat them
  • I have learned that I cannot choose how I feel, but I can choose what I can do about it
  • I have learned that you can only give advice in two situations – one, in a life-threatening situation, and two, when you are asked.

Thank you for asking.

I have two basic pieces of advice. Firstly, be the best doctor you can be. Treat every patient with the utmost care and regard, as gently and thoroughly as you would want a colleague to treat your most cherished relatives. Treat the whole person, understand what it is like for them to be ill, what it is like for their family to have them be ill, and be empathetic and genuine. Think about their physical and emotional health as intertwined components, and address both of these parts of the whole. Keep up to date with your medical knowledge; participate in medical research and teaching, and be open to learning at all times. Be kind, caring, and conscientious of your patient’s needs. Treat them with respect.

Secondly, treat yourself in exactly the same way. As physicians, we are caregivers, not care receivers. But don’t forget to care for yourselves. Take time to nurture yourself, to rest, exercise, eat well. Learn something new. Have fun. Waste time and be unproductive. Be vulnerable. Laugh. Make time for your family and then give them your full attention. Indulge yourself. See your friends as often as you can. Laugh again. Slow down. Get a family doctor, and see your family doctor regularly. Take time for yourself. Reach out to others, and share how you are feeling. Play. Take regular holidays and look for gifts of time. Laugh some more.

Maintaining a balance in your work and home lives is not easy to do consistently, and none of us do it perfectly. There is no right balance; you just know when it’s there and when it’s not. We need to catch ourselves when the balance is thrown off, and work to find it again. It is all about making choices, about realizing that there is a lot of things you like to do, want to do, and do very well, yet you cannot do it all. That’s why it is hard to keep a balance – it means giving up things we want, like to do, are good at doing. Yet, there is always a cost – you can choose the cost or it chooses itself.

My message to you is about consciously creating your lives, instead of letting your life in medicine create you. This will be an inside job, a result of listening and connecting to your self and your needs. We can plan our lives, set our goals, but we rarely end up where we think we will. Life is not just a slow shaping of achievements to fit preconceived purposes, but a gradual discovery and growth of a purpose not yet fully known. It is a lifelong process. Create your life. Slow down enough to see the path as it unfolds before you. Be happy with the richness of life that medicine allows us to experience. Fight for the life that you will be at peace with, when you look back on your life.

Thank you,

Dr. Mamta Gautam