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Dr. Jessica Carlson 2011 commencement address

2011 OHSU School of Medicine Hooding Ceremony Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall June 6, 2011

Dr. CarlsonGood morning, Faculty and Staff, family, friends and the Class of 2011!

I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this truly fabulous class. It has been such an honor to serve as class president for the past 4 years.

As many of you know, I recently drove across the country to move to NY for residency. As I unpacked about 100 boxes, I ran across a video from 4 years ago. Now some of you may be squirming in your seats and breaking into a cold sweat. But don’t worry, I won’t be showing the video of our white coat ceremony candid interviews. We will save that for our reunion!

As I watched this video, it seemed so long ago, yet in some ways just yesterday. Everyone was glowing with excitement, their eyes beaming as brightly as their stiff white coats. Several of you said you felt “completely transformed” by putting on this new white coat. Some used words such as “amazing”, “refreshing”, “clean” and “hot”, both literally and figuratively to describe the feeling of wearing the coat.  Did I mention that one person that said they felt like a celebrity? One of you even stated that it made you want to learn something, an another said it made him feel proud and honored.

Others felt just plain excited that someday we would be trading this short white coat for a longer version. Well, we’ve arrived at this moment my friends. But not without quite a busy four years. It started in anatomy lab--the memorization of countless new medical terms. Biochemistry, physiology, microbiology and pathology. As the first and second year flew by we learned what was meant by the expression, “med school is like drinking from a fire hose”. It was during PCM that we experienced practicing our physical exam skills, learning how to break bad news and the BATHE technique. We experienced numerous awkward interactions with standardized patients in our OSCE exams. Finally we had reached the half-way point of our medical school experience. We celebrated with the Follies, and I don’t think any of us will ever forget the men of med11. It was a one month cram session or should I say torture session and then it was time to take the Step1 board exam.

Finally we arrived at our third year and our full time clinical experiences. It was time to get that shiny white coat a little more dingy. Countless hours spent rounding, those late nights writing up patients and listening to (or not that we care to admit) giving the 30 minute patient presentations. We experienced the greatest highs and lows of medical school—the excitement of saving a life, the exhaustion of long hours and high demands both physically and emotionally. But all in all, this is what we came to medical school to do. We came to take care of patients and to learn the art and science of medicine. Fourth year arrived and it brought the soul searching decision about what specialty to go into, applications and residency interviews, match day and finally today, our graduation day.

We have made lifelong friends throughout this process. The class of 2011 may have more beards, carry more mason jars, perform the worst on basic science exams, compared to any other class but they are the kindest, most caring and committed individuals that you could ever want as your physician. These bonds of camaraderie between classmates and friends are unlike anything we will probably ever experience, except perhaps in residency. We have celebrated weddings, births of new babies and we have mourned the losses of our dear classmate Allie Collet and one of our Deans Dr. Tana Grady-Weliky.

All of these experiences throughout medical school have shaped who we are as individuals, healthcare providers, physicians and leaders in the field of medicine.

I am a strong believer that we are the future of the medical profession. Our generation of doctors will shape what the health care system is going to look like over the next 20 years.

As you leave here today, I hope you can retain the same excitement that we all felt that day four years ago with a shiny new white coat, and the proud feeling of accomplishment at attaining this amazing goal of achieving our medical degree. It is time to trade in that old white short coat for the long version.

We will all head our separate ways, traveling to numerous states, and likely numerous countries around the world over the next three to 6 years. There may be some anxiety about what lies ahead—internship and residency. Are we prepared? Can we write appropriate prescriptions? Are we ready to be responsible for numerous patients on a busy hospital ward? What will call as a resident be like?

It is time for us to be confident in our abilities and the wonderful foundation of our medical education that we have built at the fine institution of OHSU. On behalf of the class of 2011, I would like to thank the faculty and staff at OHSU for the endless support that we have received. With the love and encouragement of our family and friends we have survived and excelled at this grand adventure of medical school.  We embrace the new challenges to come. We have chosen this amazing profession and likewise it has chosen us.
May we all continue to be inspired by our patients and our peers. 

- Jessica Carlson, MD, President, MD Class of 2011

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