Welcome, incoming first year medical students!

This fall, you have chosen to join a group of accomplished and intelligent individuals who include not only your classmates, but all physicians worldwide. Amongst your peers are Hippocrates, Galen, Haeckel, Hess, and other great thinkers in the history of medicine. Whether or not you have grand plans for the future, your contributions will have a lasting impact on others’ lives. For your past and for your future successes, congratulations!

Of course, the road to becoming a physician will be difficult. While most articles about starting medical school offer generic recommendations to address the challenges you will face, upperclassman mentors can give more useful tips that are specific to your school and local area. This is not meant to be a post advising what to do in the first year, but one celebrating the start of medical school. After all, dedicating yourself to medicine is something to be proud of.

Those of you looking for inspiration may want to peruse the Medical Commencement Archive, which features speeches delivered to graduating classes of past years. The speakers give life advice, encouragement, and personal philosophies about practicing medicine. These points can serve as a reference to develop your own beliefs about the values of medicine, and how to find meaning in a medical career.

William Ernest Henley captures the spirit of perseverance in his poem “Invictus,” published in 1888. Though the poem addresses his personal struggles, its message encourages readers to challenge their own doubts and fears. As you continue your medical training, hold onto the convictions that you have now, at the start of medical school. Concerns of family hardships, the role of medicine, the difficulty of medical training, and loss of self have persisted for years[1]. It is up to you to determine who you will be and what you will live for.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.



  1. Fields, SA and Toeffler WL. “Hopes and concerns of a first-year medical school class.” Medical Education 1993; 27:124-129.
  2. Reprinted as hosted on Poetry Foundation website. Www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/51642. Accessed July 10, 2016.

Featured image By Mohamed CJ (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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