“Where There Are Challenges, There Is Huge Opportunity” Dr. Paul Klotman, 2015 Commencement Address of the Baylor College of Medicine

This week, Dr. Paul Klotman’s 2015 Commencement Speech at the Baylor College of Medicine entitled, “Where There Are Challenges, There Is Huge Opportunity” debuts via the Medical Student Press.
Dr. Paul Klotman began serving as President and CEO of Baylor College of Medicine in 2010. He
received his Bachelor’s degree in 1972 from the University of Michigan and his M.D. from Indiana University in 1976. He completed his medicine and nephrology training at Duke University Medical Center. In 2001, he was selected to be the Chair of the Samuel Bronfman Department of Medicine of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The BCM Board of Trustees named him as the school’s new President in July of 2010.

Dr. Klotman’s research has been a blend of both basic and clinical research in molecular virology and AIDS pathogenesis. He developed the first small animal model of HIV-associated nephropathy using transgenic techniques. He is on the editorial boards of journals in both the United States and in Europe and he has served on and chaired numerous study sections including those from the NIH, the American Heart Association, the National Kidney Foundation, and the VA research service.



At Baylor College of Medicine, he oversees the only private health science university in the Greater Southwest, with research funding of nearly $400 million. The medical school is ranked as one of the top 20 for research by U.S. News & World Report and first among all Texas colleges, universities and medical schools in federal funding for research and development.


Dr. Klotman begins his address by jumping right into the topic of ethical consequences when medical expenses influences treatment options:

“How do we measure it and how do we make sure we do the right thing even if it costs more? …All this sounds good but unless we deal with the costs of intervention and the costs of end of life care, we will struggle to bend the cost curve significantly.”

He further discusses the continued issue of the uninsured poor, despite government and local changes, and the graduates’ role in being catalysts of improving the opportunities that the underserved have in attaining medical care:

“But where there are challenges, there is huge opportunity. And the opportunities in health care have never been greater. Whether it’s new approaches to the discovery of drugs, transformational technologies to expand access to or delivery of care, or novel ways to approach the health of populations, the opportunity to innovate and transform has never been more apparent.”

Click here to read Dr. Klotman’s full speech.

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“Going Forth with Compassion” Dr. Ruth Lawrence, 2015 Commencement Address of the University of Rochester School of Medicine

This week, Dr. Ruth Lawrence’s 2015 commencement speech at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry entitled, “Going Forth with Compassion,” debuts the Medical Commencement Archive. This address was a personal favorite to read and a great reminder for those of us still studying in our medical school caves, as well as those starting their life in residency.

Dr. LawrenceDr. Ruth A. Lawrence, MD, is a graduate of Antioch College and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She is a pediatrician, clinical toxicologist and neonatologist. She is Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Medical Director of both the Ruth A. Lawrence Poison and Drug Information Center and of the Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Study Center. She became the Director of the Poison Center at the University of Rochester in 1958 and wrote on the management of household poisonings with Dr. Robert Haggerty, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and former Director of the Boston Poison Center. She has been a member of the New York State Association of Poison Centers since its founding and has served as its President twice. In 2002, Dr. Lawrence received the Life Time Achievement Award from the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology.

Dr. Lawrence begins her speech with the almost-intimidating reality of graduating from medical school:

“You are about to embark on the most challenging year ever.  Medical school pales by comparison because before you were the student, you were there to learn but it was someone else’s responsibility.  In a few weeks, you will be the doctor of record, what you do may save a life, solve a problem, or change the course of an illness.”

She reminds the class that despite the advances in technology, treatment plans and hospital protocols, and despite the efficiency of a quick reference to “Google,” nothing will ever replace the significance of simply listening to your patient and being compassionate.

“The key to being a good doctor is to really care about your patient.  The science will come and go, but the best doctors understand people, REAL people, and are good communicators. Listen when patients talk, listen completely.”

Dr. Lawrence concluded by reciting a short quote:

The purpose in life is not to be happy, it is to matter

To be productive and responsible

To be honorable

To be dedicated to goals higher than self

To have it make some difference that you lived at all.

Click here to enjoy Dr. Lawrence’s full address.

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“More Than a Diagnostic Code” Dr. C. Garrison Fathman, 2015 Commencement Address of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 7.47.02 PMThis week, Dr. C. Garrison Fathman’s 2015 commencement address at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis entitled, “More Than a Diagnostic Code” debuts via the Medical Commencement Archive.

Dr. Fathman is a Professor of Medicine in Immunology and Rheumatology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Fathman received his M.D. from Washington University in St. Louis in 1969, completed his residency at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in 1971 and his fellowship at Stanford University School of Medicine in 1973.

He is currently the Director of the Center for Clinical Immunology at Stanford and Division Chief of Immunology and Rheumatology, and a former President of the Clinical Immunology Society and the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies.

Dr. Fathman’s primary research focus in molecular and cellular immunology continues to lead the way in discovering the mechanisms of T-cell anergy and the pathophysiology and immunotherapy of preclinical animal models of autoimmune disease.

Dr. Fathman begins his speech by recollecting a somewhat nerve-wracking situation in his medical school rotation and reflecting on the importance of remaining humble in the face of knowledge:

“…you have an abundance of knowledge gained over the years of study already committed to this profession, but a dearth of practical experience. It is critical that as you enter into practice, you maintain a sense of humility in your knowledge as you interact with your patient.”

He continues by describing the dramatic changes in medicine as technology surges to the forefront of patient care, and encourages students to interact with patients physically and emotionally instead of simply recording information into a computer:

“…you must remember that the more skilled you become, the more specialized you become, and the more dependent on technology you become, the easier it becomes to lose your humanity by discarding your compassion and connectivity with your patient. You must continually strive to maintain your compassion and connectivity with your patient. This will allow you to maintain your humanity.”

He closes by reminding student to embrace the uncertainty of science and the opportunities it opens:

“Trust the education you received at this internationally esteemed medical school to help you make the right probability-based decisions, but don’t stop learning; continuing education is a life long requirement of the medical profession.”

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“Building a People-Centered Health Care System” Dr. Richard Gilfillan, 2015 Commencement Address of Georgetown University School of Medicine

This week, Dr. Richard Gilfillan’s 2015 commencement speech at Georgetown University School of Medicine entitled, “Building a People-Centered Health Care System” debuts on the Medical Commencement Archive.

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 10.16.35 PMDr. Gilfillan has been a leader in U.S. health care for over 25 years, developing organizations to deliver stronger health outcomes. Gilfillan began his career as a family medicine physician and later became a medical director and a chief medical officer. He earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from Georgetown University and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

He launched and became the first director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) in 2010 and worked with payers and providers to develop innovative models for improving patient care and reducing costs.

He is currently the President and CEO of Trinity Health, the $13.5 billion Catholic health system that serves communities in 21 states with 86 hospitals, 126 continuing care facilities and home health and hospice programs that provide more than 2.2 million visits annually.

Dr. Gilfillan’s speech revolves around the idea of innovating opportunities for bringing health care to as many people as possible in the country.

“Taking the perspective of a person or family being cared for in our system we ask ourselves how would we choose priorities, design the lab, or set visiting hours sensibly? We integrate the resulting ideas into our conversation. Doing this significantly expands our thinking and will lead to better decisions.”

He concludes by advising the graduating class to incorporate five principles into their daily encounters with patients and hospital staff:

“Be humble. Be curious. Be bold.Laugh a lot, enjoy your work, and celebrate your team.And remember that listening well to your patients is the starting point of great patient care.”

Read Dr. Gilfillan’s speech and the rest of the Archive here: The Medical Commencement Archive

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“The Compassionate Physician Discoverer” Dr. Barry Coller, 2015 Commencement Address of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

This week, Dr. Barry Coller’s 2015 commencement speech at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine entitled, “The Compassionate Physician Discoverer” debuts via the Medical Commencement Archive.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 3.07.39 PMDr. Coller is a respected educator and a leader in hematological research. He graduated from Columbia College in 1966, received his M.D. from New York University School of Medicine in 1970 and completed his residency in internal medicine at Bellevue Hospital and advanced training in hematology and clinical pathology at the National Institute of Health. He is currently the David Rockefeller Professor of Medicine, the Head of Laboratory of Blood and Vascular Biology, Physician-in-Chief of The Rockefeller University Hospital, and Vice President for Medical Affairs at The Rockefeller University. He also serves as the founding Director of the Rockefeller University Center for Clinical and Translational Science. Dr. Coller’s research interests have focused on hemostasis and thrombosis, in particular platelet physiology. He helped developed abciximab which, to date, has treated over five million patients – I’m sure we’ve all heard that drug in pharmacology many times!

Dr. Coller began his address by reflecting upon, what he believes, are the two pillars of medicine: science and humanism.

“The expert physician has a comprehensive and deep scientific understanding of the causes of illness and the rational basis of disease prevention and therapy; the compassionate physician applies that knowledge with sensitivity to the unique needs and circumstances of a single complex individual.”

He further explains that medical humanism has five core elements: the preciousness of human life, respecting and protecting a patient’s dignity, celebrating human diversity, sympathetic appreciation of the complexity of the human condition and lastly, a commitment to social justice, universal access to medical care, and global responsibility.

Of course, a leader in research will not fail to emphasize the importance of furthering science:

“…I appeal to each of you to be a medical discoverer by which I mean applying the scientific method to address a health need… you live in an age of ever faster technologic change, much of which meets the criterion of disruptive innovation, wherein new technology does not simply improve on previous technology, but forces radical transformation.”

At the end of his speech, Dr. Coller concludes with this piece of wisdom:

“Art, literature, poetry, theater, and cinema help you keep the patient’s perspective before your eyes, but nothing is as good as really listening to your own patients, sympathetically hearing their life story, and learning what they have teach you. And nothing is as rewarding.”


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“Declaring an Affirmation of Commitment” Dr. Robert Folberg, 2015 Commencement Address of the Oakland University Beaumont School of Medicine

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 11.01.57 AMVolume 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.

Volume 2 of the Medical Commencement Archive has a fantastic line-up this year! A new speech will be published each Friday.

Visit the Medical Commencement Archive