The (Alternative) Commencement Speech*

*Since I technically graduated from medical school in September of 2016, going to a commencement ceremony in June of 2017 felt super weird to me, so I decided not to go.  Oh, and, if I had gone, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have let me give a speech....  But y'all don't mind do you? Nah, I didn't think so.

Here goes.

To my esteemed colleagues, friends, and family: Welcome.

We've worked incredibly hard to get here.  But, it is only right that we should have worked hard to get here for now we find ourselves continuing in the tradition of the long and noble line of physicians who have gone before us.

Together, we have done a lot of living.  We have seen things.  We have watched each other grow and learn and struggle and do better.  We have cried tears of joy and tears of sadness together.  We have provided each other with comfort when comfort seemed impossible.  We went from a group of strangers with a common goal to becoming each others family.

We have helped each other through the bad things- sickness, delays, failure, heartbreak, and bad news from home.  But we got to be there for the good things too. We've seen each other fall in love, we've been there for babies and birthdays, and we've all got enough inside jokes to last a lifetime.

How many couples did we end up with?  Four? Five? (Joe and Megan, Somy and Aman, Bharvi and Rod, Zach and Antonio...  These are only the ones I can think of off the top of my head)  I think I can safely quote Rihanna here and say y'all "fell in love in a hopeless place."

We managed to find the humor in things that, well, maybe weren't always so humorous.  And although Dr. Linton would probably tell us that was a juvenile coping mechanism, I think it's a pretty great one.  Laughing with you guys got me through this.

When things were bad, I'd remind myself of our island motto: "It can always get worse."

For those of you who think that sounds a little pessimistic, I can assure I don't mean it that way.  For us, "it can always get worse," is an call to positivity and gratitude more than anything else.

Because sometimes it's easy to forget where we've come from, what we've already endured to make it this far.  So when things aren't great I tell myself "it can always get worse" because it really could be and it has been.

We could be out of water.
We could be upwind on trash burning day.
We could have just missed the last Winair flight.
We could be down with Dengue (they don't call it breakbone fever for nothing, just ask Rosita).
We could have missed all the fresh groceries on Wednesday.

And since I know none of you have had to deal with any of those things today, or even lately, I want you to smile and say to yourself "it can always get worse."

We're physicians.

We did it.

All that work and struggle and study and finally we can say "we did it."  We're doctors now, not just playing doctor anymore.

At this point, I think it's traditionally expected that I should encourage us to reach for greatness, to do our best and then to do better, and to remind us of the gravity of our positions, to make sure that none of us gets too cocky or too overconfident because there are lives in our hands.

But I don't think I have to remind any of you any of that do I?

We're all particularly aware of the tenuous line we walk.  We know, deep in that place within us where only true things reside, that every day in the hospital that is simply a day of work for us, is a day of sickness or pain or fear for our patients.

We have held tiny, terribly sick babies and we have held the hands of the elderly as they contemplate their lives.

We understand the gravity of what we do.

It scares the shit out of us, but we do it anyway because this is what we've been trained for.  This is what we live for.  This is what we love.  This is what we came here to do.  To treat the sick, to heal the broken, and to provide comfort where we can.

And it really is a privilege, that we get to do something so momentous every day for work.

But here's my exhortation, here's what I don't want you to forget- it is work.  And it is hard work.  And it takes from you.

Please, remember the work we do is hard, remember it takes from you and give yourself a break.  You are not superhuman.  You have limits.  You will need help.

It's okay to show some "weakness."  No one is going to think less of you for being an actual living breathing human being.

When you need help, ask for it.

Make time for yourself.

Eat real food.

When you need a minute, take it.

Don't make coffee your only fluid intake.


Try to feel the sun on your face at least once every day, even if only for a moment.

Get some exercise.


Because, although we're doctors now, and we're charged with taking care of others, we still have to take care of ourselves.

Congratulations y'all.

We really did it.

Be Well**

**Hahahaha, I'm kidding, you're safe here.


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