5 inspiring quotes from medical, nursing school commencements in 2017

Commencement speeches are meant to inspire optimism and motivate change among new ranks of physicians and nurses — but they can also energize those who have been on the frontlines of medicine for years.

Here are five quotes from notable commencement speeches delivered this spring. 

1. "The sweetest joy that anyone can have is the opportunity, in a loving way, to reach out and help each other. That's what your profession is all about. That's what medicine is defined by. May it always be so," said Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health, at the University of Michigan Medical School commencement in Ann Arbor May 12. Dr. Collins also performed a medical school-themed version of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a Changin.'"

2. "Good intentions aren't enough, but there is an essential quality for success in medicine: humility," said Tom Frieden, MD, former director of the CDC at the May 24 commencement for Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. "A dangerous intern is not the intern who knows nothing. It's the intern who does not know that he knows nothing."

He added, "But, humility does not mean lack of confidence. Humility does not mean insecurity. Confidence is required for the surgeon to cut, the internist to prescribe, the researcher to experiment, the prevention specialist to implement. We all share a commitment to heal, to take action despite the inevitability of incomplete certainty."

3. "When we're watching a movie and an important moment is about to happen, how do we know? Because there's a close-up and the music changes. Well, in life, there's no close-up and there's no change of music," said Jon LaPook, MD, chief medical correspondent for CBS News, at the Quinnipiac University Frank H. Netter, MD, School of Medicine commencement May 14. "You have to play the soundtrack in your own head. You have to control the zoom button yourself. You must catch that moment when the patient — consciously or unconsciously — tells you what's the matter. You need to get them to open up to you as one human being to another. And they will not do that unless they know they are talking to a human being."

4. "Your obligation from today onward is to stand up for the vulnerable and the voiceless. And if that means engaging in controversy, then do it anyway," said Vivek Murthy, MD, the 19th Surgeon General of the United States, at the May 15 UCSF School of Medicine commencement. "If that means taking the risk of being labeled as political, do it anyway because principles are only worth having if you have the courage to act on them."

5. "You need to take your place at the table where you are. You are the future of healthcare," said Acting U.S. Surgeon General Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams, PhD, RN, at the UTHealth School of Nursing commencement May 9 in Houston. "I wish I could tell you that the road will be easy. There will be times when you question your competence. But, you would not be here if you were not made of the right stuff."

 

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