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Graduation Ceremony 2018

CU School of Medicine

(May 25, 2018) Over the course of a remarkable career that included graduating from the Air Force      Academy, obtaining three master's degrees, serving as flight physician on the International Space Station for 141 days and practicing emergency medicine, Kjell Lindgren, MD, developed a few guiding principles that he shared with 165 graduating medical students at the CU School of Medicine’s Hooding and Oath Ceremony.

A 2002 graduate of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Lindgren told the class of 2018 that he compressed what he'd learned into "three tools for your medical kit.

"The great thing is you already have these," Lindgren, the invited guest speaker said at the ceremony on the Boettcher Commons on the Anschutz Medical Campus. "You just didn't know it yet."

  • The white coat of competence. "When you don your white coat you make a promise to your patients that you are well-prepared and totally committed to their care. When you don the white coat you are declaring to colleagues and your team that you have the skill and knowledge to do your part."
  • The phone of humility. "This amazing piece of technology allows you to call a friend, a trusted colleague, a team member when you don't know the answer or perhaps need help. It reminds us all to adopt a posture of humility, to listen to our teams, to be wary when we are adamant on a topic.

    "It reminds me of my residency graduation when we handed out t-shirts with slogans to attending staff. One of those t-shirts said 'I may not be right, but I am sure.' Don't be that guy."

  • The pocket of kindness. "Whether you're in scrubs or a white coat, you're always equipped with a pocket - right next to your heart. It is a pocket of kindness." For example, he said, "It's cold in the emergency department where I work, and one of the things I like to do even when I tackle a patient's medical issue is pop in with a warm blanket - an unexpected kindness. Treat the physiology and the soul."

School of Medicine Dean John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, advised graduates to prepare for a career geared toward continual learning because medical knowledge is changing rapidly.

"This campus is a former Army base. Building 500 is the former hospital, and in 1956 the president of the United States Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack, and he was admitted to this hospital. Treatment for a heart attack at the time was six weeks of bed rest. The chance of President Eisenhower dying while in the hospital was about 30 to 35 percent. Today under that same scenario someone would probably be in the hospital for three days, two days maybe. They would have their artery reopened … The in-hospital mortality is one-tenth of when Eisenhower was president.”

Another example of the evolution of medicine can be seen in the premature birth of a son to President John Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline.

"He was potentially the most powerful man in the world and a member of one of richest families in America. They had a son born at 34 weeks and that child died and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. I am happy to say I have twin grandchildren born at 31 weeks, three and a half years ago, and, I'm totally objective about this, but they are perfect.

"My message to our graduates is, though this is a terminal degree, it is not the end of your life as a student. You will have to re-learn medicine and medical science several times over the course of your career."

Associate Dean of Student Life Brian Dwinnell, MD, FACP, noted that the graduating class impressed him with their compassion with patients and with each other.

"I can say with all sincerity that I can only dream that I was as service-oriented at the start of my career."

Class speaker Richard Froude, an author of three novels with a fourth about to be released, spoke eloquently of the shared experiences through medical school, from meeting each other during matriculation through the struggle of the clinical years. 

"We were there at the hardest times, missing the ones we love most, realizing that maybe the relationship we brought to medical school would not last .... We were there in cold stairwells crying into our hands because the man with bright eyes we had taken care these last weeks was gone and there was nothing, nothing at all, that anyone could have done."

Personalities changed through those years.

"Because we were here together, because we did these things we put our faith in each other, we trusted each other with our lives ... we have earned each other's trust. We go forth to do no harm, to meet our patients where they are, to witness lives as they begin and as they end, to diagnose the disease that will reshape lives."