September 2016
Welcome to the Class of 2020

On Sunday, July 24th I had the honor of representing your Greater Louisville Medical Society at the University of Louisville School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony. One hundred fifty-six newly accepted medical school students were recognized before their families and friends, given their first white coat, a professional self-portrait in their new white coats, compliments of your society, and a new stethoscope compliments of U of L Medical School alumni. In addition to myself, Dean Ganzel, Dr. Greg Postel, Vice President of Health Affairs, and Dr. Barry Kerzin, a personal physician of the Dalai Lama, spoke. Dr. Kerzin spoke of the importance of compassion for oneself and for your patients in sustaining a successful and rewarding career. Here is what I said on behalf of your society.

"Thank you Dean Ganzel for the opportunity to address the class of 2020 this afternoon.

I am Doctor John Roberts, president of the Greater Louisville Medical Society. Starting today the Greater Louisville Medical Society is now YOUR society. 

GLMS began in 1892 and so your society has seen over 124 medical school classes start and graduate. But I am sure yours will be the best class ever!

I say over 124 classes because, back in the 1800s, medical training could be as short as three months, and several classes would be graduated each year. 

Now, if you are sitting there thinking the path you are on can be completed in three months, we need to talk.

In the Sinclair Lewis 1925 Nobel Prize winning novel, "Arrowsmith," the young man aspiring to be a physician, Martin Arrowsmith, is told by an old Doc Vickerson, "The physician's library needs just three books, Martin: 'Gray's Anatomy,' the Bible and Shakespeare! You'll make a fine doctor, Martin."

You too will make fine doctors!

But, if you are sitting there thinking, "Great, all I need to do is go out back and buy 'Gray's Anatomy' at the bookstore table and I'm all set," we need to talk.

Today will be an unforgettable day in your professional life and in the memories of your families. Your Greater Louisville Medical Society wants to help you mark the beginning of your medical career. We are proud to be a sponsor of this ceremony and to provide you with your first white coat and a GLMS lapel pin as our gift. 

In addition, GLMS is providing a complimentary professional portrait of you in your new white coat, immediately following this ceremony. At our table, you will receive a complimentary 5 X 7 print, and the free student membership in your society will be activated.

I could go on and on about the support that your society will provide for you in the next four years and in your professional career - but I suspect you have other things on your mind today, and what I would say would not be remembered. Just know that your society is here for you.

Let me leave you with this. When I was a medical student, Dr. Billy F. Andrews, the chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the time, told me the following: 

"To diagnose, to prognose, to treat when and if necessary, but above all else, to console - that is the charge of the physician." 

The science of medicine has come a long way since the 1800s and old Doc Vickerson. But the art of medicine has proven to be timeless. In the busy days ahead do not forget the altruism and compassion, the desire to help people in their neediest of times, that caused you to take this path. Do not forget to console your patients. Do not forget to CARE for your patients.

Perhaps in future years you will stand before a similar group and tell the story of how old Doc Roberts once said, "The physician's library today still needs just three books - first, the Bible (or some other spiritual text), second, Shakespeare (for where else can you find in one collection examples of all the characters, drama, joy and pathos that play out on the stage of life), and third, this (holding up my cell phone) - your smart phone - your portal to all the books, articles, and electronic medical records you will need to take care OF your patient. But it will be up to you, and the heart within you, to care FOR your patient.

I, on behalf of GLMS, congratulate you and your families and wish you all success in the next four years and in all of your professional career.

Thank you."

The audience applauded when I finished (perhaps glad that the ordeal was over with).

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Greater Louisville Medical Society Mission Statement:
  • Promote the science, art and profession of medicine
  • Protect the integrity of the patient-physician relationship
  • Advocate for the health and well-being of the community
  • Unite physicians regardless of practice setting to achieve these ends