Aug. 12, 2016 – At the 2016 Matriculation Ceremony of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, keynote speaker Shanta Zimmer, MD, welcomed first-year medical students to “the most wonderful profession in the world,” by encouraging them to find the “call within the calling.”
Quoting an essay, The Moral Bucket List by New York Times columnist David Brooks, Zimmer said: “We all go into professions for many reasons: money, status, security. But some people have experiences that turn a career into a calling. These experiences quiet the self. All that matters is living up the standard of excellence inherent to their craft.”
Zimmer, the school’s associate dean for diversity and inclusion, told the new students, who gathered on Boettcher Commons on the Anschutz Medical Campus with hundreds of friends and family, to remember that patients are more than their illness and symptoms.
“Nobody opens the obituary paragraph in the newspaper with the description of the deceased’s disease. The Denver Post doesn’t start with ‘This was an 85-year-old heart failure patient.’ That just doesn't happen... Think about what medical students would say about you on rounds. About your parents...
“Know your patients as people. The rewards will be great.”
School of Medicine Dean John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, said listening to patients’ stories and learning about their values will help when making difficult decisions about their health.
“There’s a lot of data out there that we physicians are very good at not letting patients talk,” Reilly said. “On average, somewhere between 12 to 18 seconds into the history, we interrupt the patient. So my final plea to you is don’t be average.”
Zimmer said a resident recently asked her how she stays motivated and energetic in the face of setbacks and disappointments.
“My answer was that when I think the setbacks I’m facing might be challenging or insurmountable, I do what we doctors do. I lean into the greatest driving force we can imagine. I flee to the bedside of my patients and listen to the stories they tell me about their lives, their accomplishments, their hopes and their legacies.
“Listen to the call within the calling ... To all of those who question whether your step into this noble profession was the right one, tell them not to worry. We’re good. You’ve got this.”