Aug. 14, 2015 - The 184 students entering CU School of Medicine on Friday are becoming physicians at a propitious time, Dean John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, told a matriculation ceremony crowd of incoming first-year students and hundreds of their friends and family members.
Scientific advances that have taken place in the last 50 years mean that diseases that once killed patients now can be cured. Diagnoses of Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS, which didn't exist when Reilly was in medical school in the 1970s, can be successfully treated.
"The landscape of medicine is changing," he said. "I spent a lot of my internship treating cases that you'll never see because we cure those people now, and they don't wind up in the hospital.
"The health care system is changing a lot, and your generation - and hopefully you - will help lead that change, which will result in a health care system in the U.S. that's more affordable, that's available to everybody and is a better system for both patients and physicians."
Friday's matriculation ceremony on Boettcher Commons at Anschutz Medical Campus was Reilly's first as dean of the CU School of Medicine and capped a week of orientation for the students. He counseled incoming students to keep an open mind during medical school and onward.
"All of you got here because you're really good at taking tests and really good at knowing the answers. One of the early lessons in medicine that's hard to grasp is that you are entering a profession where more often than we like to admit, you actually don't have answers, and you'll be making decisions based on imperfect or inconsistent information."
Quoting Sir William Osler, MD, a renowned medical educator, Reilly said, "Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability."
Reilly urged students to remember that what is routine for a physician is not routine for the patient.
"Even when you do know the answer and you know what the right course of treatment or the right recommendation for a patient is, counseling them about that and leading them through that decision path is going to be one of your professional challenges."
Quoting Osler again, Reilly said "'A good physician treats the disease. A great physician treats the patient who has the disease.' Please try to keep that in mind."
Some surgeons are known for having great hands, radiologists for great eyes, and other professionals for insightful minds, he said.
"But the most important organ for the physician is the ears. We have a real advantage over veterinarians. Our patients talk, and if you give them a chance they'll talk to you. The unfortunate reality is that the average physician interrupts 18 seconds into their story. So don't be average. Your patients will tell you their story and provide insights into problems that they have that are causing them to seek your attention.
"One of the richest joys of practicing medicine is interacting with people and hearing their stories. So I ask that when you engage with people that you listen to them and listen with undivided attention, and I think they will be richer for it. As will you."