An Ode to the Class of 2019: Our Future, Our Greatest Hope
Sep 4, 2015 12:00 AM
I confess that of all the seasons, I like the arrival of Autumn best. That’s when campus comes alive, when students return, or join us anew, filling our classrooms with boisterous activity and youthful enthusiasm.
At the start of Autumn, medical students participate in a rite of passage known as the “white coat” ceremony. This year 122 students ceremoniously donned their white coats, embarking on one of the most remarkable transformations in higher education—the transformation from “pre-med” to “doctor.”
The Class of 2019 represents some of the best and brightest minds at the University, and thanks to the support of the Utah Legislature and Gov. Gary Herbert, it’s a landmark class—our first fully expanded class (from 82 to 122). It’s also a competitive group. Admission this year was the toughest ever with a doubling of our applicant pool to more than 2,700.
This year’s students hail from just about every college in the state of Utah, and universities across the country from the University of California, Los Angeles to University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their average overall GPA is 3.71. The highest MCAT score received among them is 39. Three of them already have doctoral degrees and seven have master’s degrees. A total of 26 languages are spoken among the 92 who speak at least one second language. And that’s just what we have on paper.
They enter medicine at a critical juncture, as rising health costs threaten the country’s economic recovery, and we struggle to ensure everyone has access to quality care. Of course, times of crisis and great change also bring great opportunity to imagine a better way, and ask challenging questions like: How can we deliver care that is more coordinated and comprehensible to people? How can we better prevent illness, eliminate health disparities and reach the underserved? How can we be sure we are considering carefully the personalized outcomes that patients desire?
The University of Utah is deeply committed to solving these dilemmas and I, for one, am heartened that our students will help lead the way. Our students are the answer, because they’re resourceful, collaborative, smart and flush with innovative and fresh ideas. It sounds cliché, but they are the future, our secret sauce.
If there is any piece of advice I could give them it would be this: To keep patients at the center of all they do. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, expressed it best. Uchtdorf spoke at this year’s white coat ceremony, an occasion of joy for him and his family, as two of his grandsons are enrolled in our medical school, one of whom he was able to personally help welcome this year.
Patients are not their disease, Uchtdorf reminded students. “The elderly man diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is not just anyone. He is a father, a grandfather, and perhaps a veteran. He’s frightened. His dear wife is burdened with worry and grief, and so are his children. For decades he has provided for his family. He has worked double shifts, attended school plays, helped with homework, and come to the rescue of stranded family members. And now, these patients come to you.”
Uchtdorf described what a privilege it is to be the person that people come to lean upon in their most desperate hours of need, and how it’s we who are so greatly enriched by the experience. “From your patients you will experience the best of what it means to be human. You will see endless courage, faith, hope, and love,” said Uchtdorf. “You will be a witness of the heights to which a human being can scale. From your patients, you will truly learn what it means to be patient and human. And you will understand in a way few others can, the vanities of this world. You will appreciate and recognize the things that truly matter most.”
It’s possible to become hardened in bearing witness to pain and suffering, but Uchtdorf counseled students, in times of grief and stress, to recall their sense of wonder and joy. “I hope that as you learn to better understand the greatest miracle of creation—the human body—you will always keep within you a sense of wonder and awe about what you do and how you do it,” he said.
It’s a demanding profession, and a most rewarding one. There really is a no more fascinating or promising time to be in medicine. “Savor this moment” were Uchtdorf’s parting words of wisdom, “Give gratitude to those who have helped you along the way.”comments powered by Disqus