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Abraham Verghese urges Stanford grads to always remember the heritage and rituals of medicine

Abraham Verghese urges Stanford grads to always remember the heritage and rituals of medicine

Dr. Abraham Verghese, MD, MACP a speech at the Stanford University School of Medicine Convocation on Saturday, June 14, 2014. ( Norbert von der Groeben/ Stanford School of Medicine )

More now from Saturday’s commencement ceremony, courtesy of my colleague Tracie White, who recounts the sentiments of the day in a medical school news story. During the event, White reports, graduates reflected on their years of hard work, thanked their loved ones and faculty members for their support, and took their first steps as doctors.

During his opening remarks, School of Medicine Dean Lloyd Minor, MD, told the new doctors, “Have the courage to follow unmarked paths… Listen to your patients. They are trying to tell you the diagnosis… Above all else, listen to your heart.” He was soon followed by Stanford physician and best-selling author Abraham Verghese, MD, who delivered the keynote speech and urged graduates to look to the time-honored role of the physician-patient connection and learn from this relationship. As White wrote:

[Verghese] began his remarks with words of warning, noting that soon-to-be-published research shows that medical students spend as much as five to six hours per day in front of the computer during their clerkships.

“That just astonishes me and worries me, and you are not doing it by choice, but because that has become the nature of our work,” he said. “You will need courage and determination to push back when things detrimental to your time and your care of the patient are being thrust at you. Electronic medical records don’t take care of patients: You and our amazing colleagues in nursing and the other health-care professions care for patients.

“People take care of other people,” he said to loud and long applause from the audience.

Both heritage and rituals, like the ritual of commencement, play an important role in the career of a physician, he said.

“You are also participating in a timeless ritual… when you get to examine a patient. You are in a ceremonial white gown. They are in a ceremonial paper gown. You stand there not as yourself, but as the doctor. As part of that ritual they will allow you the privilege of touching their body, something that in any other walk of life would be considered assault…

“The ritual properly performed earns you a bond with the patient… The ritual is timeless, and it matters.”

More photos from the day can be found in this gallery, published earlier on Scope, and on the medical school’s Flickr page.

Previously: Stanford Medicine honors its newest graduates, Congratulations to the Class of 2013!, Stanford medical school alum fulfills lifelong dream to participate in commencement ceremony and In commencement address and Atul Gawande calls for innovation around “entire packages of care”
Photo by Norbert von der Groeben

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