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Graduation 2014

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(May, 23, 2014) Dean Richard Krugman, MD, led his final graduation ceremony at the CU School of Medicine on a sunny Friday morning at the Anschutz Medical Campus to conclude week marked by tornadoes, hail and downpours. 

After joking about being the runner-up to First Lady Michelle Obama to deliver the keynote addressKrugman counseled the 151 new physicians on weathering their residency years by maintaining balance between the demands of their professional and personal lives. 

“It’s easier to learn the facts and technical skills of our profession than it is to  learn how to balance lives that are relentlessly and malignantly crammed with the demands of families and friends, your patients, your supervising residents, your attending physicians, your students," said Krugman Friday.

Previous generations, he noted, did not face the same challenge.  

His father graduated medical school in 1939. As a resident, he had every other Sunday off, marriage was prohibited and he was paid $25 a month. “At the end of the year he had $250 saved because there were no stores open in New York City on Sundays.” 

His own experience in the late 1960s was slightly better. He worked 36-hour shifts with 12 hours off in between. “We had no expectations of balancing family with work. Our spouses knew we weren’t going to be there.” 

His son graduated from medical school in 1995 and worked long hours, too. But graduates in 2014 are allowed to spend no more than 80 hours a week at work, and there’s a move afoot to limit that to 60. 

“It’s possible the challenge for you and your generation now is how to balance work with your personal lives in such a way that you actually learn enough to be as competent as you need to be as a physician.” 

He reminded graduates of a question he asked them at their matriculation ceremony four years ago: how many had been warned by practicing physicians not to go into medical school. Eighty percent had raised their hands. “Why are so many pre-meds being told not to do this?” 

He believes that the physicians who counsel against medical school have lost balance in their professional lives 

“Whether it was medically or surgically curing disease, assisting parents in the physical and behavioral growth of their children, or the comforting of the elderly coping with their terminal illnesses, the extraordinary variety and unpredictability of practice made every day an adventure,” he said.  

“Then came the oppression of insurance plan administration, the shrinking of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement and, in many places, crushing malpractice insurance premiums and the need to see more and more patients in less and less time just to keep balance in their checking accounts.  

The joy and fun went out of their work.” 

Class speaker Igor Shumskiy said he and his classmates have been warned by practicing physicians that medicine is “no longer what it used to be.” 

“With the complexity of medicine being at an all-time high and bajillions of combinations existing in our lives, our profession begins to seem more and more daunting.” 

But there is another way of looking at it. 

“We’ve chosen to do the simplest and most beautiful act in this world – we’ve chosen to help people.”