School of Medicine Commencement: a tradition from the middle ages


Graduation season, and another 186 medical school students became doctors this month. The CU Anschutz campus is a fantastic home to 5 major health-related schools: the College of Nursing, the School of Medicine, the School of Pharmacy, the Dental School, and the School of Public Health. Thousands gathered, for all 5 schools, at the Boettcher Commons on campus and had a wonderful, sunny ceremony at the end of this rainy, snowy week in Colorado. How lucky we are.

Congratulations to Dr. Mark Earnest, recipient of the Sabin award for his selfless devotion to championing public health and care of the under-served. He’s also my boss, as Chair of the Division of General Internal Medicine (walking, with glasses and the green collar/hood in the photo above).

My colleague Larry Feinberg was right (as always): Commencement is something we, as faculty physicians, should attend. The work we do to educate, inspire, and support our students, and now newest colleagues in the profession of medicine, is an important tradition, and one that reaches back to the Middle Ages. When else do you get to wear a Tam (short for, apparently, “tam-o-Shanter” a traditional Scottish cap. Who doesn’t want to look, at least sometimes, like Leonardo da Vinci, in heroic pose?

Furthermore, the green Hood signifies Medicine, and the colors within the hood symbolize the specific school where we each trained (for those who bother to obtain the specific hood). For CU, that is gold and black.

I was proud to see the student I mentored, Thea Tran, graduate and be accepted to a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation residency in Nashville, TN. Congratulations to her! She was well-loved by my patients and is sure to make her mark wherever she goes.

In an age when we’ve lost or look down on many of our traditions, having something that stretches back a millennium, is amazing and stirring, renews our sense of purpose.

In Colorado, we have adapted the Oath of Hippocrates over the years, and I found it inspiring:

I devote myself to the health of humanity, with full respect for the dignity and worth of each person. Above all, I will strive to do no harm.

I recognize that my knowledge and skills are imperfect, and that I must always seek further training and growth. I will not perform treatments for which I am not qualified, and I will call upon others for help. In turn, I will gladly render aid when asked.

I commit myself to the profession of medicine, to the advancement of scientific knowledge, and to the education and mentorship of those who follow me.

I will respect the rights of my patients and colleagues and shall safeguard those confidences placed in me.

I will speak out when silence is wrong. I will respect the law, but I will not fail to seek changes that would reduce suffering or contribute to good health.

I recognize the trust that has been placed in me by society and by my colleagues. I will at all times comport myself with dignity, honesty ,humility, and integrity.

These things I do swear solemnly, freely, and upon my personal and professional honor.

The Colorado Physician’s Oath

CMIO’s take? What traditions do you uphold, and which sustain you? Being part of something larger than ourselves is, paradoxically, both selfless and selfish. And that is a good thing.

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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