(May 24, 2013) The graduation ceremony had all the components of a successful day: sunny skies with a refreshing wind, crowds of family and friends cheering and solid career advice from a retired chief executive officer at Denver Health.
Each of the speakers - Patricia Gabow, MD, MACP; School of Medicine Dean Richard Krugman, MD; graduate Spencer Tomberg – set priorities for the soon-to-be physicians’ residency years and beyond.
And then the zombies attacked.
It was Tomberg who invited the zombies to graduation by comparing the impending residencies of his fellow graduates to a zombie apocalypse.
Tomberg described going to a medical appointment with his father who, he remembers, quickly became the hospital's most interesting case of the day due to the severity of his ailment. Unfortunately, in a room full of doctors studying the case, not one came near his father.
“A hand his shoulder that day would have made all the difference,” he said, encouraging his classmates to remember that every patient is someone’s father, sister or brother.
In zombie movies, he said, some people survive by going into hiding.
But, “heroes are the ones who engage head on. It’s the same with residents. There are going to be challenges. People will be scared and looking for leadership. It’s an opportunity to step up. Reach out to someone who has fallen behind,” even when doing so will slow you down, he said, shortly before being chased off stage by a small group of zombies, some of whom looked a lot like preschoolers.
Gabow, former head of Denver Health, told graduates gathered in Boettcher Commons on the Anschutz Medical Campus that they are going into what she termed a "learning profession." She explained what she meant by quoting two men she admired.
First, she recalled the words of her Italian grandfather, a “peasant philosopher" who became a teacher
upon immigrating to America:
- “lf you get an education in America, there's nothing you cannot do.”
- “If you have a gift and you don’t use it, no confessor on Earth can absolve you.”
Gabow then quoted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who said that those in a learning profession do not stop their education at graduation. Understanding their field “must be part of every day, every week of their life.”
“A learning profession is an occupation which is pursued largely for others,” Gabow said, encouraging the new physicians to be advocates for the health and well-being of everyone, not just the patients they see. “Your generation needs to create a health care system that is just, offers high quality care and is affordable.
‘When your life is over and you’ve left this world a better place by being part of it, you will truly have been a physician … This is my wish for all of you.”
Echoing that point, Krugman articulated three goals in health care: better, more patient-centered individual care, better health care for the entire population and accomplishing these goals in the most cost-effective way “so the cost of health care to society can be restrained.”
To accomplish those aims, Krugman listed three requirements:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Treat medical students with respect, even if you don’t feel you were always treated well in your time as a student.
- Take care of your emotional needs, and those of your family and friends.
He encouraged the graduates to remember Gabow’s advice about the “learning profession.”
“Don’t ever in the course of the next 50 years of your career be worried about asking someone for help if you’re not sure what you are doing.”
That’s especially imperative now given the pace of innovation, he said, noting that 20 percent of what the graduates were taught in medical school will someday become irrelevant.
“We just don’t know which 20 percent,” he said.
See the coverage from the Anschutz Medical Campus graduation ceremony >>