Friday, May 11, 2012

I am delighted to join you today and to bring you “greetings from the University.” I offer my heartiest congratulations to all the graduates at this very special moment in your lives. But I also want to extend a special greeting - and thanks - to all the family and friends who are with us here today, and to those who couldn’t be here but have been an important part of your medical school journey. I know that, as medical students, you make enormous sacrifices, in many ways, to pursue your dreams. And I know you could not pursue those dreams without the support, encouragement, and sacrifices of your loved ones. They are, equally, part of today’s new beginnings, and we all are grateful to them.

Health care and the health sciences are central to the University of Iowa’s identity, to the intellectual contributions that we make to the world, and to the applied service that we provide to our state and nation’s citizens. I thank you for being part of this great tradition, both in these past few years and on into the future.

As you move on to the future, I charge you with upholding the honor of this great university in your practice, in your research, or wherever else you apply your new status as a Carver College of Medicine graduate. You are about to become the public face of who we are, what we do best, and what we stand for.

The University of Iowa’s most world-renowned strengths perhaps are medicine and writing. And I have been so impressed by the way writing and medicine have found their mutually reinforcing relationships here at Iowa in recent years, capped by another remarkable Writing, Humanities, and the Art of Medicine conference this spring.

What ties virtually all academic disciplines together is the use of words. Their power and necessity are unquestioned in any area of endeavor. If you are going into practice, the majority of your interaction with patients will be talking with them. Indeed, Dr. Sara Murray Jordan, first woman president of the American Gastroenterological Association in the 1940s, once said, “In medicine . . . words are sometimes the most powerful drugs we can use.”

My message to you today is not specifically to encourage you to use words well, though that is important. But the significance of words in medicine is just one example of how multi-faceted health care really is. More and more, medical education at the UI is becoming interdisciplinary. More and more, physicians and other health care providers are realizing how crucial it is to work in multidisciplinary teams, to treat the whole person as well as the disease, and to be sensitive to the humanistic as well as physiological dimensions of health and wellness.
My wish for you as you go out to your new careers is to keep expanding your sense of what medicine is and what it entails. The University of Iowa has been doing that for decades and will continue to do so. Through your Iowa education, you have developed an excellent groundwork for being fully versed in treating the human body. But you have also gained an excellent foundation for envisioning new possibilities for what that “Doctor” in front of your name means to your patients, to your profession, to your communities, and to the world at large.

Once again, congratulations, good luck, and best wishes for great success on this wonderful path and in these wonderful years ahead of you. We are very, very proud of you.