The end of the year is already such a busy time - a time of reflection and transition. This year, the COVID 19 pandemic has made it particularly challenging. I want to make sure that I am one of the voices that says to you - I am so proud of you for your hard work and sacrifices during this year. And I am so happy to spend time with you to celebrate all of your accomplishments.
Each class has confronted and persevered in different ways. For the fourth-years, you will be forever connected across the country as the first class to virtually match to a residency and graduate from medical school. As a primary care physician myself, I was delighted to see that primary care was the most popular specialty choice among your graduating class, as so many of the health disparities in this country are due to preventative health conditions. I was not surprised to see so many of you match with top-tier residency programs as this reflects the caliber of Geisel students. I hope you can find the time to reflect upon your triumphs through tribulations in the past 4 years, celebrate with your family and friends, soak in the joy of receiving your M.D, and look forward to the exciting next step.
For the third-years, your curriculum and learning has been the most impacted of any class. I have had the opportunity to precept a handful of you during outpatient telehealth appointments, and I am so impressed by your flexibility and passion to care for patients. The ongoing uncertainty in these difficult times can often be overwhelming, but your willingness to persist in your clinical education reveals your strength and determination.
For the first and second years, many in the country are using their newfound free time to process this tragedy by coping with new hobbies, catching up on TV and movies, or sleeping in, but you have remained academically focused. You have shown resilience by performing with the same expectations while acclimating to the new challenge of Zoom fatigue and technical difficulties during lectures and without the comfort of spending time with your classmates as you attend class, study, and decompress.
Nothing can replace human connection, and I have been happy to hear that many of you are continuing to build community with your medical school family by hosting virtual parties, game nights, happy hours, and even cooking and exercise classes. I am so proud of you for looking out for each other. We will only get through this together by supporting and lifting each other up.
Continue to take this time as an opportunity to savor in the small joys and to focus on what is meaningful and feeds your soul. As high-achieving medical students who are used to making sacrifices and giving so much of your energy, sometimes at the expense of yourselves, I want to encourage you to save some of that energy for yourselves at this time. Audre Lorde, a black lesbian activist and thinker, reminds us that self-care can be revolutionary. In her 1988 book, A Burst of Light, Lorde wrote: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
This is the balancing act that we continue to work on throughout our lives if we are to sustain ourselves and each other while we do meaningful, value-based, difficult work. And we do have difficult work ahead of us.
This pandemic has revealed how deeply broken our system is, and that it is not working for many of us. The rampant racism and hate crimes directed at Asian Americans show that the “model minority” truly is a fragile myth. COVID-19 has magnified the pre-pandemic health disparities of Native, Black, and Latinx communities and the vulnerabilities of other marginalized groups, including LGBTQ communities, the poor, the working-class, the homeless, the uninsured and underinsured, and the undocumented. The aphorism, “when white America catches a cold, black America gets pneumonia” has never felt more true and unconscionable. Ableism and ageism are at an all-time high with politicians very openly suggesting the disposability and diminished worth of certain people due to their age or disability. When these identities intersect, the poor health outcomes are even more magnified.
This is why I have so much admiration for many of you and your dedication to addressing systemic racism, injustice, and disparities. I had the opportunity to review the report from Rural Health Scholars, the news clipping of Urban Health Scholars’ trip to NYC, in addition to personal reflections from last year’s Minnesota Indian Health Service trip. I was touched and even brought to tears by your formative experiences, thoughtfulness, and reflectiveness. I hope you continue to carry that humility and intellectual and emotional curiosity with you in the years to come. Tonight, I am so looking forward to hearing more about your achievements and reflections from this past year and the future plans for this coming year.
At the DICE Office, I hope that we continue to be a home and safe haven for those who have experienced marginalization and discrimination. That communal pain often leaves an open wound that festers. Sometimes it may present as feeling undeserving of one’s accomplishments and accolades. We are here to always remind you what an asset you are to this community - Geisel, the Upper Valley, and healthcare.
I have been listening to Beyonce a lot more in these past months, more than I ever did before the pandemic. Right before her game-changing album Lemonade came out, she gave an interview saying, “I hope I can create art that helps people heal. Art that makes people feel proud of their struggle. Everyone experiences pain, but sometimes you need to be uncomfortable to transform. Pain is not pretty, but I wasn't able to hold my daughter in my arms until I experienced the pain of childbirth!” So let us create art together through our care of one another, our community, and our patients.