By Laurina Leyenaar
I feel both privileged and proud to be standing here tonight, representing MUN MED’s Class of 2005 and I am grateful that you could all be here this evening to share in our celebration. Together we have had quite the journey and as someone wise once said, a journey is best measured in friends rather than miles. I am pleased that the friendships that we have developed will forever reflect the incredible trip we have shared.
As a CFA from small-town Ontario, my personal journey through medical school began in March of 2001 when I made by first-ever trip to Newfoundland for my medical school interview. Despite wondering where on God’s green (or white) earth I had ended up, I was instantly and pervasively struck by the generous and hospitable nature of the people I met. When I received my acceptance letter several weeks later, I realized that I could easily live here for four years. Who knew that they would disappear so quickly or that I would find the prospect of leaving so traumatic!
On Aug. 27, 2001, we entered Lecture Theatre B for our first anatomy class. I found myself in a relatively non-descript room with my classmates, suddenly drowning in a sea of endless anatomy terms. Despite the somewhat overwhelming flood of information, my attention was immediately drawn to the array of decorated ceiling tiles and I realized I was embarking on a journey where many had gone before. The strong Memorial tradition was creatively displayed above our heads and we all spent hours, easily distracted from biochemistry, immunology and pathology, studying the names of those who had gone before.
Over the ensuing months of first year, we would come to hate Lecture Theatre B, particularly when our oft-inspiring lecturers would seemingly threaten our idealistic selves by saying that the next four years would cause us to lose part of our humanity, our contact with the outside world and our common sense. I now recognize that our initial classroom learning paved the way for us to gain increasing clinical experience and built the necessary foundation to develop meaningful relationships with our patients, allowing us to make appropriate decisions regarding their diagnosis and treatment.
Given that we spent all day, every day, with the same group of people within the same four walls, it isn’t much of a stretch to say that our focus was sometimes a bit sheltered. And yet not a single one of us will ever forget the events of September 11, 2001. As we sat in Theatre B listening to Dr. Penny Moody-Corbett talk about electrochemical gradients, one of the most significant world events in recent history transpired. We all gathered around the fuzzy television in the student lounge trying to make sense of what had happened and trying to respond to it appropriately. Although I had felt quite isolated here initially, I suddenly realized how small our global community is, as there were numerous people in our class with friends and relatives living in New York City. It seemed as though everyone had a personal connection to the tragedy.
The value of maintaining ties to the world beyond medicine, as well as an appropriate balance in our lives has been stressed to us repeatedly from the words of Dr. Katrina Hurley at our initial White Coat Ceremony to the final words of Dr. Dave Pitt, the doctor of letters who addressed us at Convocation May 25. I think the last four years have taught us the important value of maintaining balance; we could have easily adopted our motto from Dr. Suess when he said, “And when they played they really played and when they worked, they really worked.”
Now that we have the official MD behind our names and are entering the world of medicine as physicians, we must acknowledge the privilege associated with the profession. Dr. Tinsley R. Harrison, born in Talladega, Alabama on March 18, 1900, penned some inspiration in the forward of his book, the first edition of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine.
No greater opportunity or obligation can fall the lot of a human being than to be a physician. In the care of the suffering he needs technical skill, scientific knowledge and human understanding. He who uses these with courage, humility and wisdom will provide a unique service for his fellow man and will build an enduring edifice of character within himself. The physician should ask of his destiny no more than this and he should be content with no less.
I trust that none of us will ever lose sight of this. We will inevitably face numerous challenges through the course of our careers, for with the honour of becoming a physician there also comes tremendous responsibility. Over the last few years there has been ongoing and endless debate about our health care system, something most Canadians consider a right of citizenship. Limited access and increasing costs are just several examples of the challenges that we will have to deal with as we move forward. In order to be strong and effective advocates for our patients we must be responsible in the care we deliver.
To my fellow graduates: Always remember your achievements with pride. Through the years you have set goals and met each challenge with enough courage and determination to overcome the many obstacles you’ve encountered along the way. Success is not measured by how well you fulfill the expectations of others, but by how you honestly live up to your own expectations. Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey. Because you have been true to yourself in the pursuit of your dream, you have earned this moment and the right to be proud of your accomplishment.