10 Inspiring Graduation Speeches by Physicians

gawande-commencement-speechThis month, thousands will graduate from the 170 accredited medical schools in the U.S. Many will move on to residency. But due to an unusual shortage of available slots, some hundreds of others will end up without residency in a sort of “professional no man’s land.”

Either way, they’ll all need guidance from those who’ve preceded them. With this in mind, we decided to take a look at some of the inspiring commencement speeches delivered by doctors in recent years. A few of them have been posted on YouTube (embedded below); for others, we include a link to the full transcript.

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“Those who suffer need you to be something more than a doctor; they need you to be a healer. And, to become a healer, you must do something even more difficult than putting your white coat on. You must take your white coat off. You must recover, embrace, and treasure the memory of your shared, frail humanity – of the dignity in each and every soul.”

Donald M. Berwick, MD, MPP
Yale University, 2010

(Transcript)

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“Find something new to try, something to change. Count how often it succeeds and how often it doesn’t. Write about it. Ask a patient or a colleague what they think about it. See if you can keep the conversation going.”

Atul Gawande, M.D.
Yale Medical School Commencement, 2004

(Transcript)

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“Whether you go into research, business, law, medicine, public service or education, neither you nor society can continue to survive or prosper simply by implementing what is already known. Somebody is going to have to come up with meaningful new ideas, creative new approaches and important new discoveries. Why can’t that “somebody” be you?”

Yvonne Thorton, Physician and Pulitzer prize nominated author
Tuskegee University, 2003

(Transcript)

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“Be prepared to be accountable for everything you do; be prepared to welcome your patients’ participation in decisions about their care; be prepared to devote your professional energies not only to your patients’ needs but also to the unmet health needs of our society as a whole; be prepared to husband society’s limited resources….”

Jordan J. Cohen, M.D.
University of California School of Medicine, Irvine, 2012

(Transcript)

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“Get comfortable being uncomfortable and you might be surprised where it takes you.”

Dr. Mehmet Oz
West Chester University, 2012

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“But all of you — all of us — must raise our collective voices and enlist the aid of others in putting the redress of global inequality at the center of our national agenda. If we do not respond effectively to the challenge of addressing global inequality, we risk further erosion of America’s position as a world leader whose economic and military power is matched by the force of its high ideals.”

David J. Skorton, MD
Cornell University, 2007

(Transcript)

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“How will you keep fun in your life? Yes, fun. Seems to be resonant chord here this morning. Life is full of enough sobering and tragic moments, don’t forget to exercise your sense of humor, you are going to need it. Listen to Winston Churchill, ‘You cannot deal with the most serious things in the world unless you also understand the most amusing.'”

Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD
University of Virginia, 2001

(Transcript)

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“The earlier you accept that Wonder woman and Superman only exist in the comics and that setting priorities is not a compromise but a choice, the less angst you will endure.”

Ellen Gould Chadwick, M.D.
Denison University, 2012

(Transcript)

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“So never stop learning; never stop asking questions; and never forget that medicine is an art as well as a science practiced by doctors and researchers who bring to the bedside – and to the bench – not only technology and training, but also their humanity, caring, and concern.”

Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.
Stanford School of Medicine, 2012

(Transcript)

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“Be a part of your communities beyond your own workplace. Join friends
and neighbors in the activities of schools, churches, synagogues and mosques. Let
your children see that you care about the community you reside in and help them
learn to exercise their gifts and skills as you do to the betterment of the world.”

Dr. Joseph Martin
Brown University, Alpert Medical School, 2012

(Transcript)