Declaring an Affirmation of Commitment: Dr. Robert Folberg, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine Commencement

Dr. Robert Folberg, MD


Volume 2 of the Medical Commencement Archive comes from Dr. Robert Folberg at Oakland University Beaumont School of Medicine’s charter class’ commencement. Dr. Folberg’s address, Declaring an Affirmation of Commitment, reflects not on the definition of being a good physician, but on being a good human being. Dr. Folberg is the Founding Dean of OUWB, as well as the Chief Academic Officer at William Beaumont Hospital. As a proud student of OUWB myself, I couldn’t help but debut this year’s Archive with my university’s Dean – a man who has never failed to give mini-motivational speeches in the hallway before exams and is always happy to attend and support student organization events.

Dr. Folberg revolves his speech around two questions: what do I want to do, and who do I want to be? Although to some, those two questions may inspire the same answer, Dr. Folberg stresses that the second question embodies a commitment beyond profession.

To answer the second question – who do I want to be – requires training, practice, and commitment. You were invited to come to OUWB because you excelled academically and because you provided evidence to us of experiences and attributes that predicted you would become physicians who are empathetic, compassionate, and engaged.

He continues by emphasizing the Declaration of Geneva, an oath that each study took upon receiving their first white coat. Each class at OUWB has the opportunity to make unique additions to the Declaraton of Geneva, reflecting upon the promises they hope to fulfill throughout their careers.

You recognize that we all have conscious and even unconscious biases that, if unchecked, could compromise our ability to practice medicine. How could we allow our biases to interfere with the practice of medicine if everyone has infinite value?

At the end of his speech, Dr. Folberg quotes an original line from the Declaration of Geneva: “I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude that is their due,” and humbly titled each student as his new teachers in the profession of medicine.

Frequently, stymied by a case that challenges my abilities, I turn to my younger colleagues for help, and often, these are the very individuals who were my students. In a very real sense, I owe to them, my students, the respect and gratitude that is their due.


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