I was moved by Martha Pollack’s remarks at spring commencement yesterday. Paraphrasing the late positive psychologist, Christopher Peterson, she said “people matter. The good life isn’t necessarily the easy life; good character helps get you through the tough times; money can buy happiness, but mostly if you spend it on other people; and service is high on most people’s lists.”
Looking back on two years of medical school, these words resonate strongly with many of the triumphs and tribulations of medicine and the path to becoming a physician. The truth is that medical school is tough, especially in ways you don’t expect it to be. We are challenged in lecture halls and classrooms, yes. We are challenged in practice patient scenarios and on standardized exams. We are challenged in these ways every week — learning detailed mechanisms of pathophysiology, memorizing long drug charts, and applying this knowledge to case scenarios. These tasks are certainly challenging, but I’ve found the most difficult moments to be the ones that push you to become a better person. To assume a role of leadership when you are least expecting to. To discover what medicine means to you, and to hold on to that definition. To cultivate friendships despite the long and hard hours of studying. To build a career path that will be both professionally and personally fulfilling. So I think Christopher Peterson really hit the nail on the head with his theories for what makes life (and a profession) meaningful and worthwhile. People do matter – incredibly much – and medicine is an amazing profession despite it not being easy (and perhaps partly because it is challenging). Good character will certainly get you through the tough times in medical school and service is the foundational reason for why medicine is so rewarding.
One of my favorite things about this university has been that deeply insightful and moving moments like this lurk around every corner! From graduation speeches in the Big House, to concerts at Hill, and patient rooms in our own hospital system, you never know when you will stumble across something that will make you stop and reflect and grow, moving you closer to the person you will be when you leave this place. I couldn’t be more excited to start a new chapter of experiences and personal growth as a third year (M3) in the Mott Children’s Hospital next week!