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Vital Signs:
Highlights from the Class Day Addresses

Judah Folkman, M.D.


Julia Dyckman Andrus Professor of Pediatric Surgery and Professor of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School

From now on, patients will continue to be your teachers. . . . There is a debt that we owe our patients for our education. . . . How does one give back to one's patients? Well, first by trying to become the best physician or medical professional you can. . . . One sure way to achieve this is to find a mentor, as soon as you can. . . . Secondly, a little later in your development, try to become a mentor yourself. . . . And then when you become really good at something—whether it's a central intravenous line or diagnostic understanding— try helping others to achieve the same expertise. . . . Finally, you know, I'm sure, how important it is to avoid destroying a patient's hope. Physicians have such power to destroy hope without even being mindful of it. . . .

And for those of you who will do research . . . remember that it is you who will arm your fellow clinicians with new ways to relieve suffering and with an increased understanding of the scientific basis of medicine.

Gary Maslow


DMS 2004 M.D. Graduate

The white coat is important to our teachers. . . . Their white coats were symbols of their competence, but what they taught me was not so much about the power of the coat as a symbol, but instead about the value of what was inside —both inside their hearts and inside their heads.

It is what is inside the white coat that counts, namely ourselves, all of our experiences, what we have learned here on these hallowed grounds. . . . We have also learned that which is most important from our patients. They have taught us about their diseases, they have shared their stories of illness, they have sat before us naked physically and emotionally and asked for our help. We carry each of their stories with us, somewhere beneath the breast pocket of our white coats. It is what is inside these stories and relationships that is important.

What is inside our white coats is ourselves, our minds, and our bodies, which have been trained over these past few years to carry out the work of medicine.

Margaret Ann Crane-Godreau


DMS 2004 Ph.D. Graduate in Physiology

Our nation has an aging population and there is political pressure to change the way we deliver and pay for medical services. Also, there is pressure to reduce the cost of medical care. We are challenged by emerging diseases such as SARS and Ebola and by the worldwide HIV pandemic, with its social and economic consequences. . . .

In contrast to these challenges, we have technology, medications, and insight that might have seemed more like science fiction a relatively short time ago. We have a real prospect of personalizing patient care, where practitioners will have detailed genetic information providing insights into the metabolism and physiology of the individual patient. Such new technologies will allow physicians to tailor treatments with far greater precision than is possible today. Funding is increasingly available for integrated investigations, supporting multidisciplinary teams . . . of physicians, researchers, public-health workers, and educators. . . . We will face challenges and over the course of our collective lives, will make thousands of decisions that will influence the lives of individuals and, in some cases, perhaps whole nations.

If you would like to offer any feedback about this article, we would welcome getting your comments at DartMed@Dartmouth.edu.

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