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Matriculation 2013

School of Medicine

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Aug. 16, 2013 - The journey to becoming a physician and to navigating the changing landscape of health care will require mastering more than the facts of science and medicine, keynote speaker Robin Deterding, MD, said at Friday's matriculation ceremony.

Successful doctors will develop a "humanism GPS" to navigate changes, she told 160 new MD students in the CU School of Medicine class of 2017 on the Anschutz Medical Campus, where students received their first white coats and stethoscopes.

"The rate and magnitude of change is happening faster than at any time before in medicine," she said, listing three "huge tectonic plates" altering the medical field:

  • Health Care reform to help improve the delivery and quality of care.
  • Information technology to allow health care professionals to analyze data like never before.
  • Molecular science breakthroughs to redefine how diseases are managed and cured.

"All of these will be part of your career," she said. But, she cautioned, something important can get lost in the midst of so much change. As the medical field becomes more complicated and intricate, patients sitting in the center of those shifting plates and can become confused, fearful and forgotten

Humanism GPS doesn't come from books but from experience dealing with patients and colleagues. "It will tell you the right way, the wrong way, when to change directions or to go full-speed ahead.  It's important as medicine becomes more complex, to ask yourself 'How do I feel about that?'"

It's easy to get distracted. She cited a recent study that showed medical interns spend just 12 percent of their time with patients. "They spend more time with their computers than patients," she said. 

Deterding recalled a patient she met while a third-year student in the obstetrics block. It was a busy night, and she was assigned a young woman in labor with her first child. No family or friends were there to support her. 

"She became my patient. I stayed the entire time. In between contractions we talked about her, where she came from, what she hoped for her child, and she asked questions about me." 

Deterding helped deliver the woman's daughter and later came by to check on her.

"What she told me shocked the heck out of me. She asked me 'Do you know what I'm going to name her? Robin, after you.'"

The knowledge base new students will gather in the next four years is crucial, but the richest part of her practice comes from listening and being there for patients. 

Developing humanism GPS starts now, she said, "not in three years or when you become a doctor."

The field of medicine offers extraordinary opportunities - "half are opportunities that we can't even imagine," Dean Richard Krugman told first-year students.

Most will see three to five career changes; students will practice in hospitals, small and large practices, community clinics. Those who go to developing countries will be practicing medicine "close to what I was trained on in the '60s." he said. One CU graduate is working in the space program figuring out how to keep astronauts healthy on the long trip to Mars. 

"You can practice medicine in almost any century you choose," he said.