News at Medicine - November 2017 - Valedictorian Speech: June 2, 2017


Valedictorian Speech: June 2, 2017
November 2, 2017
"This is but the beginning of the road. There will be more great times and more tough times, there will be more heart break, and there will be more celebration. And I look forward to continuing this journey with you, together."
 

By Desmond Whalen
 
Dean Steele, Faculty, Family, Friends, and my fellow classmates,
 
It is a near impossible task for anyone to sum up four of the best years of our lives, and at times days that seemed like the worst. This group has made memories, and forgotten experiences, we have laughed and we have cried, we have studied hard and played hard, but most importantly we did it together. I could not think of a better group to have spent the past four years with, and before I even start this speech I want to thank you for giving me the honour of bidding farewell.
 
There is an over/under bet going of how many times I would cry this week. It is without question an emotional one and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I know that each and every graduate in this room feels the same way as me. And the truth is, its ok to show that emotion. It’s about what Dr. Macdonald described last night, and living in the moment. Being in that moment with each other now, and soon, to be in that moment with our patients. It’s not what we have been trained to do, but it’s ultimately how we are, as professionals who want to help people. The medical jargon, the lab tests, the imaging results, that’s all important, but in the end, it’s the way the patient feels that will determine our ultimate success. When our patients cry, we cry. When our patients laugh, we laugh. And that’s what’s they expect of their physicians. So my first message today is, for the rest of your career, and indeed your life, be the mirror that reflects what your patients want to see in the medical profession.
 
In the Tim Hortons coffee line a few weeks ago I ran into our former dean, Dr. James Rourke. As we chatted about the end of the year and everyone’s plans, he began to tell me about a trip of his to Conne River, our classmate John Jeddore’s hometown. Chief Joe remarked to the former dean that when his community found out that John had gotten into medical school they likened it to putting a man on the moon 20 years earlier. As the first person from Conne River to attend medical school there is a weight that comes along with that. I know, the communities of each and every graduate here tonight felt the same. And for the graduates, the feeling was mutual. The day we walked through those doors, not knowing what to expect, charting new territory, and making our own mark we too felt: “Houston, this is one small step …” and we could not have done that without the people, not who stand behind us, but by our sides, in rank and file, supporting us each step of the way.
 
My second message today is: always be that astronaut. Continue to chart new territory, let your curiosity approach an asymptote but never touch it, and always be grateful for the communities, families and ground control that put you here. My mentor, Dr. Ravalia has often said we have a social justice mandate to look after our populations and that giving back to our communities is the single most important thing we will ever do.
 
It’s easy in medicine to get too big for our britches. I remember a lecture in first year talking about the patient-physician relationship, and the unique, and often forgotten, privilege and power that physicians can have. The lecturer said “what other profession in the world can someone tell the Prime Minister of Canada to put on this blue gown, lie on that bed, and wait for me to return” and it be perfectly acceptable. On a recent elective, I learned, don’t ever be too big for your britches. Working with a surgeon, a patient who had difficulty hearing entered the clinic. She had a Basal Cell Carcinoma excised two years prior and it had recurred. As she entered the clinic room, the surgeon said “HELLO, This is Desmond, a medical student I have working with me. Now my dear, these basal cell carcinomas, they aren’t dangerous they are just a bit of nuisance.” To which she replied “that’s ok doctor, he’s just learning.” Humility is a wonderful thing. 
 
My third message tonight is always be humble. Always realize that we are humans helping humans. We have the same physiology, the same biology and the same emotions. Don’t be afraid to fail and use that to improve. Always be humble; the profession will be better because of it.
 
The group that you see before you today is unlike any other. Did you know: the fiddler from the Dardanelles is among the graduates? A former Miss Newfoundland? Someone from the city of Toronto, Ontario, and someone from the city of Duntara, Newfoundland? We have a graduate of space school and many graduates from the school of hard knocks. We have people who are parents. From ranging cultures, and many backgrounds. In no other circumstance would this diversity culminate in such a strong group, but as we quickly learned adversity builds character.
 
I am by no means the one to be preaching wisdom, the youngest member of the class and the one who speaks the least fluent English most days, I was hardly the ideal person. But I feel I owe each and every one of you something because, as we have grown together, you have taught me so much about myself, about medicine, about relationships and about how when a group puts their mind to it they can take on the world. From the awkward orientation week ice breakers, to the gala last night, we are very different people than the ones who entered those doors four short years ago. We are grayer (cough Fraser cough), we are stronger, we are doctors, but more than that, we are family – and with that I love each and every one of you.
 
This is but the beginning of the road. There will be more great times and more tough times, there will be more heart break, and there will be more celebration. And I look forward to continuing this journey with you, together.
 
Now, I don’t know if anyone knows this, but I love politics so I will leave you with a quote from the leader of our century:
 
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama
 
As you go out there, and change this profession for the better, as you start your own revolution, as you show your patients what it truly means to change someone’s life for the better, let us remember how lucky we are, whether hailing from Flatrock, NL or White Rock, BC, to call this province, this university, and this faculty, home. 
 
Thank you.