Yesterday was BSOM’s commencement, the first one that felt “normal” since 2019. It was a wonderful occasion. Medical school graduations are always very special and the honor of participating in them never fades. The moment the brass quintet starts playing, and I walk in with my colleagues in our colorful regalia, a wave of excitement and emotion always comes over me. After hearing remarks from Captain Juliann Althoff, a 1995 graduate and distinguished military physician, and from outstanding student speaker Dr. James Elliot, we arrived at my favorite part of the ceremony. Many people would no doubt state that watching the graduates cross the stage to be hooded, receive their diploma, shake hands, and sign their names with an “M.D.” for the first time is the best part. For me, the most thrilling moment is when the M.D. degree is granted. I always get goosebumps! When President Edwards pronounced the words, “Upon the recommendation of the faculty and by authority of the Board of Trustees, I hereby confer upon you the Doctor of Medicine degree with all rights and privileges thereunto pertaining,” I turned around to look at our students. Because I was so close to the graduates, I was able to clearly see the waves of emotion—I saw pride, joy, tears, gratitude, and perhaps a bit of fear and trepidation, spurred by the realization that they were all, as people, walking across a threshold, forever changed. One moment a medical student, now a physician with the incredible privilege and responsibility that comes with it. So many years of planning, striving, studying, working—all for this moment.
I’m reminded again of the poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The Chambered Nautilus.” I recited from this poem during my graduation remarks last year. Holmes writes about the chambered nautilus, a sea creature that spins new chambers of its shell, moving from one “room” to the next as it outgrows the previous. As it does so, it creates a beautiful shell that is geometrically perfect, but is ultimately left behind. Holmes writes:
Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.
It’s hard not to feel a little sad as we watch our graduates outgrow us. But ultimately, commencement is the happiest day in the life of a medical school. It’s where we see our mission come to fruition—to graduate compassionate, skilled physicians who will serve our communities in the future, while at the same time transforming the lives of the young people who come to learn with us.
We wish the Class of 2022 well. Thank you to the BSOM faculty and staff who make it all possible.
Dean Valerie Weber