(May 25, 2012) Aurora - Looking out at a sunny, windswept Boettcher Commons on Friday, Darrell Kirsch reminisced about his own graduation 35 years ago from University of Colorado School of Medicine and his four years in medical school.
For example, unlike the experience of the 140 MD students graduating Friday, there was no ceremony to welcome matriculating students to give them their short white coats and stethoscopes.
"We went to the bookstore," said Kirch, the keynote speaker and now one of the most influential medical voices in the nation as president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
He remembers thinking the coat didn't fit him well despite washing it and putting it through the dryer.
"I couldn't make it fit," he says. "But then I realized that the problem wasn't the coat. The problem was that I had no experience to fill it."
Eventually, time made the difference. He remembers going into a patient's room alone for the first time and introducing himself as a medical student.
"A look of concern swept across his face," he said. Kirch realized the patient, a World War II veteran, was concerned about his lack of experience, but also about whether anyone was going to take the time to hear his story.
Both Kirch and Dean Richard Krugman said doctors miss a lot of information by not bothering to visit with their patients.
"Sit down and talk," Krugman said. "Look at the patient, not at the computer screen. Improve your typing skills so they are good enough for you to look at the patient while you type."
Class speaker Peter Kitrick Moore said empathy and care from his medical team was what got him through his own diagnosis and treatment of lymphoma during medical school.
needed to know that someone had my back, and I needed to be seen as a person
not just a patient," Moore said. "Don't
forget to empathize, recognize that patients are ill, and acknowledge the
emotional strains that disease can have on patients and their families."
The ceremony ended with hugs and family snapshots for the first MD class at CU’s medical school to complete its education entirely on the Anschutz Medical Campus. Physical therapy students also graduated on Friday; physician assistant students graduated Thursday.
Read about some of the graduates:
Michael Walsh - Taking a two-year break between third and fourth years to go to seminary school helped Michael Walsh realize what was most important to him as a healer.
Mary Naam - The daughter of physicians, Mary Naam took a circuitous path to medicine - traveling through Asia, volunteering in an orphanage, nearly going to law school and becoming a contestant on Jeopardy!
Java Tunson - A woman with a plan, Java Tunson has known what she wanted to do with her life since she was very small.