Medical students pledge to honor the human side of medicine

By Kristen O’Reilly and Bryan Goodchild

UMass Medical School Communications

March 06, 2014

At the Second Year Oath Ceremony on Wednesday, March 5, members of the Class of 2016 recited an oath they wrote collectively as a class, pledging to “always remember that medicine is an art, not strictly defined by the diseases that we study or the illnesses that we treat, but by the patients whom we are privileged to serve.”

Class of 2016 Second Year Oath

We who stand before you, in the presence of our teachers, mentors, and loved ones, do so make this oath, a solemn pledge.

We will be perpetual students of our world, seeking enrichment through lifelong education.

We will make a commitment to share the knowledge that we have gleaned, educating those who seek to learn from us.

We will remain forever humble, cognizant of the breadth of knowledge that we do not hold.

We will be honest skeptics in the service of truth; inquiring, analyzing, and examining to discern the answers we seek.

We will remember that health is inextricably linked to identity, and will commit to holistic care encompassing mind, body, and spirit.

We will respect our patients’ autonomy, acknowledging them as a partner, and empowering them to take control of their own health.

We will go forth in the spirit of collaboration, trusting our colleagues so that we might be united in serving our patients.

We will be guided by the principles of medical science, sustained by a foundation of compassion and empathy.

We will always work for the betterment of our patients, bearing in mind that prevention is the ideal treatment.

We will strive to preserve the curiosity that first drove us to this profession, approaching each day with the same passion as the first.

We will be dedicated stewards of health, recognizing that it is an honor to care for others in both times of joy and sorrow.

We will always remember that medicine is an art, not strictly defined by the diseases that we study or the illnesses that we treat, but by the patients whom we are privileged to serve.

Speakers focused on the human side of the practice of medicine, a fitting theme as the medical students look forward to the third year of their educational journey, one that transitions from learning mostly in the classroom to mostly in the clinic with real patients.

Featured speaker Michael C. Fahey, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, talked about the inevitability of failure, which he said is a critical part of learning. How students accept and respond to that failure will be key to their success, he added.

“Whether they realize it or not, [your patients] want you to be human. It is our humanity that enables us to be physicians. It is our humanity that allows us to listen to our patients. We are not automatons; we make mistakes,” said Dr. Fahey. “We have the will to make ourselves better than we think we can be. We have the will to push ourselves beyond what we think we are capable of. Tonight, you take an oath to your patients and to yourself. You will conquer the challenges we talked about and more, because you are human and you have the will.”

Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor of Medical Education, executive deputy chancellor, provost, dean of the School of Medicine and professor of pediatrics, spoke of recently receiving a call from a patient whom he treated almost 30 years ago, when the patient was just a toddler with serious lung issues due to a bout of bacterial pneumonia. Despite only talking to him one other time in those years, Dr. Flotte remembered him well, much to the patient’s surprise.

“When you take your oath this evening, you will indeed be pledging to put your own interests aside and be totally unselfish in your relationship with your patients. But I am quite certain that, like me, you will find that in losing yourself, you will gain wonderfully deep, rich and fulfilling relationships, which might even span decades in time and thousands of miles in distance,” said Flotte.

Malek Mazzawi and Sean Maloney, co-presidents of the Student Body Committee, presented Outstanding Medical Educator Awards to six faculty members whom the members of the class voted to honor for their teaching skill. Receiving awards were: David M. Clive, MD, professor of medicine; Mark Dershwitz, MD, PhD, professor of anesthesiology and biochemistry & molecular pharmacology; Michael C. Fahey, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics; Susan B. Gagliardi, PhD, professor of cell & developmental biology and neurology; William E. Royer, PhD, professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology; and Vijay Vanguri, MD, assistant professor of pathology.

Related links on UMassMedNow:

Second Year Oath Ceremony marks a milestone in the educational journey

Students vow to serve patients with respect, humility and compassion