Graduate Award in General Surgery

Vanessa R. Majeski, General Surgery Award, COMP-NW 2017.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of presenting the Clinical Specialty Award for General Surgery at the 2017 Graduate Awards Celebration at Western University of Health Science’s College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP-NW). It was amazing to hear all the accomplishments and meet so many wonderful new doctors in this year’s class. I also got the opportunity to meet a few proud parents and professors.

The list of accomplishments was incredible and included community service, community clinics, overseas work, research projects and so much more. The recipient of the General Surgery award, Vanessa R. Majeski, was no exception. Before she began her medical training, she had already been working to stamp out disease in West Africa and spent time as a research assistant studying colorectal cancer in Prague. Now she will be heading off on her next great adventure as a general surgery resident. She represents the future of surgery.

Seeing those students walk across the stage reminded me of what an incredible group of people make the decision to become physicians. The amount of talent, drive, and intelligence is incredible. After an 11-16 year journey to become an attending physician you emerge ready to begin your medical practice and tackle the massive student debt you accumulated paying for your training. There are very few professions that require such a commitment just to get started.

When I talk with doctors a few years after graduation, that spark I saw in their eyes as medical students is often times gone. How does such an accomplished group of people go from an excited group of students to such a depressed existence as attendings?

Maybe it is time for us to go back and read those personal statements we wrote to get into medical school and remind us why we do what we do. Back then, we were talking about what a great privilege it would be to help people, and the great responsibility we would have as our patients literally trust us with their lives. We really do have a noble profession and are entrusted with a great responsibility. Sometimes we just need to look back and remember the ‘why’ that keeps us going. It is hard to continue a difficult job if we do not have a good ‘why’ to keep us motivated. What is your ‘why’?

It has been a privilege to teach the residents and students of our next generation of physicians. Watching that awards ceremony was a great reminder of the caliber of people who move into the medical profession. Thank you all for your continued service; for the time you spend away from your families to help your patients, for the late night calls and the long days, for the weekends of working when you could have been at the beach, and for the years of dedication to pay for your own education.

Here’s to all the new graduates as they move into the next phase of their lives. Thank you for your continued dedication to learning and caring. Please keep it up because one day you will be my doctor.

If you know a recent graduate, you might consider getting them a copy of my book The Doctors Guide to Starting Your Practice Right as a graduation gift.

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