Med school grads bring life to workforce

Physician workforce – particularly in family medicine and primary care – has dominated TAFP’s focus during the past six months of the 82nd Texas Legislature and special session. Workforce issues emerge in all policy areas: health and human services, education, and their respective budgets – through medical school funding, graduate medical education, the Texas Statewide Preceptorship Program, and Texas Physician Education Loan Repayment program.

On June 11th, 2011, after the regular session ended and in the middle of the special session, I was very fortunate to be in the audience at the Stanford Medical School Commencement to see my sister receive her M.D./Ph.D., and to hear one of her classmates, David Austin Craig, M.D., give a thoughtful and humorous speech reflecting on his experience in med school and looking forward to the future.

Me and my sister at her medical school graduation

Seeing the class of nearly 100 brand-new doctors “preparing to go from the frying pan of medical school to the Armageddon of residency,” as Craig said, reminded me why TAFP members spent so much time at the Capitol and in district offices meeting with legislators, testifying at hearings, developing and distributing issue briefs and policy papers, and reporting back to friends and colleagues in their communities. It’s all to support and protect the noble profession of medicine.

To each physician who participated in TAFP’s advocacy effort this year, we are grateful to you and hope you are proud of the myriad accomplishments you achieved in the midst of a tough session. We’ll need your help in the interim and the 83rd Legislature to keep the momentum going.

Until then, I invite you to read an excerpt from Dr. Craig’s speech and remember how you felt when you graduated from medical school and prepared to enter residency and beyond.

“We are headed far and wide next year, the newest foot soldiers in the war against disease that leaves not one of us on this planet untouched – a true World War in a pure and timeless sense.

“And, my classmates, though your staggering debt load may prevent you from sleeping on an actual bed, you can at least sleep soundly knowing that you have chosen to fight on the right side of this war.

“We all know that there is profit to be made quickly and in abundance by spreading fear and ignorance, in promoting poor health, in disregarding or denying the sorrow of another human being. You have instead chosen to hold a candle against these things, to enter into a profession where even your daily commute is a statement against suffering and a habitual reaffirmation that good exists.

“And, believe me, this is the only way that a 1993 rusted Geo Metro driving at 6 a.m. will ever be considered a sign of good in the world.”

“In truth, after spending the last several years with you, I can say honestly that medical school has only made you doctors in the way that a microphone makes somebody a singer. The letters “M.D.” will magnify your impact and open doors for you; will let you reach into more and darker corners of the world to spread hope and comfort there. That is true.

“However, those letters work only like a microphone, only amplifying what you put into them, and a microphone will never make you a singer just as an “M.D.” will never make you a doctor. It is now, just as it has always been: You have to bring your own voice and it is, in the end, the only thing that matters.”

See the full speech on YouTube: Stanford Medical School Commencement 2011 David Craig

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