EUPHORIA! A single word encompassed my persona some 25 years ago during my medical school commencement. I had finally achieved my life’s goal of becoming a doctor and was ready to enter my residency with excitement . . . and a bit of trepidation.
As parents, attending graduation ceremonies instills great pride in our children’s accomplishments and provides us the luxury of cogitation and introspection. I recently attended my daughter’s college graduation from Columbia University, a neoclassical urban institution with 3 undergraduate schools, 13 graduate and professional schools, and a school of continuing education, as well as 5 affiliated colleges. Each of these schools has its own graduation followed by a larger combined university ceremony. This year’s attendance approached 40,000 guests including the graduates and their family and friends. My daughter’s impending entrance into medical school made the portion of the program during which the graduating medical school class recited the Hippocratic Oath even more engaging. A revered tradition thought to be written by Hippocrates or one of his students in the fourth century BCE, the Hippocratic Oath marked a physician’s “rite of passage.” At the completion of the recitation, one would transform from a medical student into a Doctor of Medicine, with all the “Rights, Privileges and Responsibilities hereto entrusted.” As these medical student graduates repeated with joined voices the oath passed down by a legacy of physicians, a silence spread throughout the massive audience witnessing the metamorphosis. My eyes welled up, my throat tightened, and my heart raced, just as it did 25 years ago. I also remember feeling at that time, although probably would never have admitted it then, some fear.
to be continued…….Bruce R. Gilbert MD PhD