(May 22, 2015) In his inaugural commencement speech Friday, Dean John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, told the CU School of Medicine's 150 new medical doctors that the three most important words to remember in their new careers are "I don't know."
"Followed quickly with 'I will find out.' But first be honest about the limits of your knowledge," Reilly told a conference room packed with faculty, graduates, family and friends at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Denver. The ceremony was held indoors due to rain for the first time since the 1990s, though a short all-campus ceremony was held outdoors earlier in the morning.
Reilly, who joined the School of Medicine in April, recalled his own graduation day.
"As your sitting here today, if you're anything like I was when I was graduating from medical school, you're probably mostly excited and a little bit nervous. In about a month from now as you're sitting in your internship orientation you're going to be mostly nervous and a little excited."
He advised graduates to remember that nervousness because that's how patients feel when they visit a doctor, wait for test results or undergo a procedure. He also encouraged the new physicians to remember "what an incredible privilege it is to be a doctor and the trust that our patients place in us."
"Maintain high expectations for yourself and for your colleagues. And I ask that you be honest both with yourself and with your patients. You will make mistakes; admit your mistakes and learn from them. Deliver news to patients in a compassionate way and don't avoid a difficult conversation."
Class co-president Eric Peterson, MD, spoke about the fear of failing that he and many classmates experience as they begin their careers. He advised his classmates to lean on family, peers and mentors.
"They'll help if you're willing to open up to them. I hope that all of you will find those who will support you when you fail. And I hope you have the courage to help those around you when they fail."
Guest speaker Robin Michaels, PhD, a former assistant dean at the school who is now associate dean of student affairs and admissions at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Duluth, encouraged graduates to make time for themselves.
"As a future patient of yours, I want you to be present with me and I don't know how you can do that if you're burned out and exhausted and distracted. So take care of yourself and be kind."
In addition, she said, "Be happy ... Hold things close to you that make you happy, that give you joy. And don't let go of them."
Courage is important, too.
"You will encounter things that are wrong," Michaels said. "Fix them. Help people who are the most vulnerable in our society. They could be you or me. This is the 21st century, and the rules need to change. And you're going to change them."