The DO | In Training | Training Ground

‘Be grateful,’ ‘Read fiction,’ and other advice for this year’s new DOs

  • Trina R. Wright, DO, cheers on graduation day at UP-KYCOM. (Photo courtesy of UP-KYCOM)
  • J.D. Polk, DO, gives the commencement speech for ATSU-KCOM's Class of 2013. Dr. Polk is the principal deputy assistant secretary for health affairs and deputy chief medical officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (Photo courtesy of ATSU-KCOM)
  • Angela Walker Franklin, PhD, the president of Des Moines (Iowa) University (left), poses with commencement speaker Eleanor "Connie" Mariano, MD, a former chief White House physician, on graduation day at DMU-COM. (Photo courtesy of DMU-COM)
  • Burton N. Routman, DO (left), professor and chair emeritus of family medicine at LMU-DCOM, greets new graduate Souleymane Y. Diallo, DO. (Photo courtesy of LMU-DCOM)
  • Sam Yi, DO, celebrates on graduation day at UNTHSC/TCOM. (Photo courtesy of UNTHSC/TCOM)
  • PNWU-COM graduates save a moment for posterity. In the front row, Elaine M. Peterson, DO (left), stands with Kerri W. Chung, DO, Daniel J. Coffin, DO, Jonathan Salberg, DO, and Scott M. Blanchet, DO. In the back row, Caroline J. Roeder, DO (left), stands with Roberta T. Trandev, DO, Jacynda L. Wheeler, DO, Angela J. Kalil, DO, Regional Dean Richard Abbott, MD, Miranda Eiseman, DO, and Mark A. Litton, DO (right). (Photo courtesy of PNWU-COM)
  • Gary Burchett, a Lincoln Memorial University trustee, presents Jessica Leigh Smith, DO, with her diploma. (Photo courtesy of LMU-DCOM)
  • Lance C. Robbins, DO (left), Cody C. Honl, DO, and Richard S. Shinn, DO, celebrate their graduation from WVSOM. (Photo courtesy of WVSOM)
  • Bagpipers lead the 249 graduates of MWU/AZCOM's class of 2013. (Photo courtesy of MWU/AZCOM)
  • Otis Webb Brawley, MD, the executive vice president of the American Cancer Society, addresses the 2013 graduates of NYITCOM. (Photo by Christopher Semetis)
  • Three generations of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduates pose together on graduation day: Jon R. Henwood, DO, Class of 1990 (left); Carol L. Henwood-Dahdah, DO (Class of 1983); John Dahdah, DO, Class of 2013; and William R. Henwood, DO, Class of 1976. (Photo courtesy of PCOM)
  • Meet RVUCOM's elated Class of 2013. (Photo courtesy of RVUCOM)

Remember “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen),” the ubiquitous 1999 song containing the spoken-word commencement advice of Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich? Schmich’s advice included such gems as “Do one thing every day that scares you,” and “Do not read beauty magazines,” and captured the hearts of people of all ages, not just graduates.

Like that famous column, 2013′s commencement speakers at osteopathic medical schools offered guidance relevant to both fresh DOs and seasoned veterans of osteopathic medicine.

While some speakers gave timeless advice, others spoke about the current health care climate and counseled the nation’s newest osteopathic physicians to focus on prevention, tackle obesity and be mindful of access. Here’s a snapshot of some of the best advice the Class of 2013 received at their commencement ceremonies.

Eleanor “Connie” Mariano, MD, a former chief White House physician, shared with the graduates of the Des Moines (Iowa) University College of Osteopathic Medicine the story of how she landed that illustrious job and the life lessons she gleaned in the process. Below are three of them:

Pick a spouse or life partner who believes in you, who lifts you up, elevates you, and is your biggest fan.

Of all your achievements in life, you will be judged many times by your character and personal behavior. Make sure you are proud of your personal conduct. It can take away all the successes you’ve achieved in your profession.

Finally: Be grateful.

Regina Benjamin, MD, the U.S. surgeon general, offered words of wisdom tied to the current health care climate. In her speech at the University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine, she emphasized the ever-increasing importance of prevention in health care:

Prevention is the key to a more sustainable health care system. We have to make prevention part of our everyday lives and empower people to make better health choices. Our vision is to move our health care system from a focus on sickness and disease to a focus on wellness and prevention. And as you know, that has always been the focus of osteopathic medicine. We want to change the way we think about health care in this country, and that calls for the nation to take a more holistic and integrative approach to community health, the same thing that osteopathic medicine has been telling us for years.

Over at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury, Otis Webb Brawley, MD, the executive vice president of the American Cancer Society, also centered his speech around health care in 2013. New DOs need to tackle the nation’s obesity crisis, he said:

Research has shown us that obesity causes not just diabetes, heart disease and orthopedic injury but also cancer. We’re actually destined to have a tsunami of chronic disease in our future because of the obesity epidemic. This trend must be stopped. That is one of your challenges.

Continuing his timely counsel, Dr. Brawley also spoke about access to health care in the U.S. and the new physicians’ responsibility to improve it:

Ironically, we spend more on health care than any other country, but we don’t have the best outcomes. We have those who are harmed because they overconsume health care. They consume health care in an unwise fashion. We have those who are harmed because they don’t get the health care every human deserves. Indeed, 80,000 Americans die every year because of the lack of health care in this, the most expensive health care system. Fixing this problem is going to be one of your challenges.

AOA President-elect Norman E. Vinn, DO, challenged graduates of the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine in Yakima, Wash., to not compare their achievements to those of their peers. He shared advice he received years ago from his DO father, which is still relevant today:

Never pay attention to how you compare to other people. Instead, ask yourself, ‘Am I doing a better job today than I did yesterday? Can I do a better job tomorrow?’ That will be a measure of your true growth as an individual.

Dr. Vinn also reminded the newly minted osteopathic physicians of their duties to represent the profession and serve as mentors:

Mentorship is a sacred trust. Share your passion for osteopathic medicine with others by mentoring those who wish to follow in your footsteps. Be a role model and a trusted adviser for students, residents and colleagues. Be guardians of your profession. Celebrate your osteopathic culture. Stay engaged with your professional family of DOs, in both your state and specialty organizations, and with the AOA.

One hundred thirty-eight years have passed since the founding of our profession. We have a rich heritage to be remembered and preserved. That heritage also deserves to be ‘paid forward.’ Your commitment to our future will ensure that others will have the same privileges and opportunities that you will enjoy throughout your careers.

At the Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Parker, Colo., Barbara Ross-Lee, DO, also spoke about professional obligations. Becoming a DO is an incredible achievement, said Dr. Ross-Lee, the vice president for health sciences and medical affairs at the New York Institute of Technology, but physicians should know that their family, friends, colleagues and others in society will have high expectations of them.

Your profession and school expect you to be loyal, supportive, involved, and above all, competent. Your colleagues will expect you to be dependable and reliable, committed to the highest quality of healthcare, and responsive to their requests in a timely manner.

Although professional involvement is important for new DOs, so too is community service. At the Georgia Campus-Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Suwanee, Stephen C. Shannon, DO, encouraged new DOs to be active in their towns and cities:

It is not only the evolving and advancing scientific and technological progress in medicine that you need to continually master, it is being in touch with the everyday life of your patients and families and participating in your communities that will make you better and better at what you do.

Dr. Shannon, the president of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, also advised graduates to revere their osteopathic heritage and empathize with their patients:

Not only are you becoming a physician, but an osteopathic physician. You will be a member of a special, distinguished, and sought-after minority in the medical profession. Be prideful of the special place you have amongst physicians, your unique background and the special community of which you are a part. Use that distinctiveness for your patients. And take the time to walk a mile in their shoes.

While new physicians will have obligations to their profession, their patients and their communities, they must not forget about themselves. In his address to the 2013 class of the Kansas City (Mo.) University of Medicine and Biosciences’ College of Osteopathic Medicine, Leonard H. Calabrese, DO, acknowledged that physicians often encounter high-pressure situations on the job. He urged graduates to find healthy ways to decompress:

Formal stress reduction may be in the form of mindfulness training or meditation. If this sounds too ‘new age’ for you, it shouldn’t, as there are many studies … that have demonstrated its effectiveness.

Dr. Calabrese, who is a professor of medicine and the vice chair of the Department of Rheumatic and Immunologic Diseases at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, also advised graduates to practice self-care.

Take care of yourselves. Have a good work-life balance—I think your generation is better than mine at this. Make yourself a person in full, exercise, play an instrument, read fiction, talk to your peers.