International university collaborationThis partnership is characteristic of developments, already underway, that are hallmarks of the new world that globalization is calling into being. Universities working together towards shared interests and goals will have potentially powerful unifying effects for otherwise separate groups and for scattered communities. They have special capabilities and provide special opportunities. They can chart a path through different cultures and assist people of diverse backgrounds to work together towards a sense of a shared humanity. They can provide a much needed international educational outreach.
Undergraduate educational challengesThe period of training you are now embarking on will bring challenges and rewards for you yourselves as undergraduates and, yes, for your teachers as well. Teachers of medical undergraduates also have challenges. My own most cherished and happiest memories, my greatest sense of challenge and achievement as a medical teacher dated back to November, 1954. The first class of young doctors from the University of the West Indies was about to graduate. Their graduation was, for all of us, their teachers and course instructors, a defining moment. For students and staff alike a wonderful experiment had now been accomplished. These young men and women will always hold a special place in my memories and affections. They had arrived five years before from Jamaica and several of the other West Indian islands as new undergraduates, like you today, at the recently established University of the West Indies. We, their teachers, had strived to train them to the highest standards and to inculcate them with the highest values of our profession. They, the newest of our colleagues, were now, as you yourselves will be in a few short years, about to embark on their own careers. In a life that later experienced many other professional rewards I still think of the graduation of that first medical class of the university of the West Indies as one of the highest points of my own professional career.
Medical professionalismLet me take this opportunity to remind you of some of the obligations, responsibilities and commitments the practice of medicine will entail. In his message to you today Dean Weitzman urges you to “recognize that in entering the field of medicine, you join a community, wherein the team is as pivotal to success as individual effort. To this end, you must strive for excellence in your pursuit of knowledge, for you can only give your best when you fulfill your potential. As you don these white physician coats, you pledge an oath of professionalism and service. Professionalism is a commitment to integrity, altruism, competence and ethics in the service of others.”
Some unresolved medical issuesYou might also wish me to share with you some of my own perceptions about a number of anomalies and contradictions that litter today’s medical landscape and cloud the horizons against which you will work during your professional lives. Practices related to medical drug usage and disease prevention are examples.
Concluding commentsLet me conclude, as I started, with advice especially for you, the undergraduates. I will quote for you a comment from Sir William Osler’s “Aequanimitas” – ‘Peace of mind’, which, I will add, each doctor should strive for. Sir William was the best-known physician in the English-speaking world at the turn of the 20th century. He has been called the “most influential physician in history.” I recommend the reading of Osler to undergraduates and graduates alike. He emphasized the need for a renewal of emphasis on human values. “Medicine”, he pointed out, “is the only one of the great professions engaging, equally, head and heart and hand. To an inquisitive mind the study of medicine may become an absorbing passion full of fascinating problems, so many of which present a deep human interest.