Newswise — May 24, 2019—(BRONX, NY)—Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, told graduates of Albert Einstein College of Medicine to embrace fear, savor opportunities to do the impossible, and practice empathy as they embark on what he called “the best job in the world.”
Dr. Gupta, an award-winning journalist and practicing neurosurgeon, spoke to an enthusiastic crowd in David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, where Einstein conferred 156 M.D., 31 Ph.D., and 16 M.D./Ph.D. degrees. They were the first graduates to receive diplomas with the Einstein seal after the College of Medicine was awarded independent degree-granting authority earlier this year. Einstein also conferred an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters to Dr. Gupta.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on you—this is graduation—but your jobs, your role in society, are more important than ever,” Dr. Gupta said. He noted that there has been “an erosion of trust in mainstream medicine…but you—newly minted doctors—are still held in extremely high regard, considered the most loyal, the most competent, and the most admired members of our society.”
Dr. Gupta told the graduates that they have the capacity to restore faith and reassure people who depend on them. He reminded them of their obligation to “protect the legacy of medicine” and to “respect the sacred bond between physician and patient.”
“It really is the greatest privilege given by one human being to another: to care for them at their most vulnerable time, to restore them to health when their bodies have betrayed them, to take them to the brink of death—if you have to—but then promise to bring them back in better condition than when you started,” said Dr. Gupta. “Just remember to always be kind, to smile, to touch. And don’t just learn the definition of empathy, but live it by truly putting yourself in the shoes of your patients. It is an awesome task. It is the best job in the world.”
He also asked graduates to consider what their places will be in a changing world. He recounted how he didn’t consider “big questions” about life and the future until he found himself on assignment in a ferocious sandstorm in an Iraqi war zone with troops about to be overrun by enemy fighters. Soldiers began to write letters and notes—anything to be remembered in case they died.
“So I ask the graduates: could you write the letter? To whom would you write? What would you say? How would you summarize your life in a few short sentences near its end? I don’t know what you’d write and maybe you never thought two seconds about this,” he said. “But you should make sure that you could write this sentence: I am the person I always wanted to be.”
He told the graduates there can be tremendous value, at such moments, in embracing fear and in challenging those who say ‘no’ or who doubt their abilities.
“I’m talking about imagining things you never thought possible,” he said. “I’m talking about savoring it when someone tells you no, that it can’t be done. Because you know deep down, you now have an opportunity to do the impossible.”
As an example, Dr. Gupta recalled the successful 27-hour surgery to separate the conjoined McDonald twins at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in 2016. Dr. Gupta chronicled the McDonald twins’ dramatic surgery, which he called “one of the most extraordinary operations I’ve ever seen,” then followed their recovery and hosted a special report, “Separated: Saving The Twins,” an in-depth account of the boys’ life before, during, and after their operation. The report won the News & Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Science, Medical, and Environmental Reporting in 2018. During his speech, he recognized one of the surgeons, Oren Tepper, M.D., assistant professor of plastic surgery at Einstein and director of aesthetic surgery at Montefiore Health System.
“At times when you’re not sure—and that’s going to happen a lot—at times when things seem hard…you have to remember that it’s possible to do good and to be good at the same time,” he said. “They go hand in hand. As you progress through your careers, you’re going to do so much good for so many. Don’t forget to be good. Good doctors, good citizens, good human beings.”
About Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Albert Einstein College of Medicine is one of the nation’s premier centers for research, medical education and clinical investigation. During the 2018-2019 academic year, Einstein is home to 711 M.D. students, 160 Ph.D. students, 107 students in the combined M.D./Ph.D. program, and 265 postdoctoral research fellows. The College of Medicine has more than 1,800 full-time faculty members located on the main campus and at its clinical affiliates. In 2018, Einstein received more than $172 million in awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This includes the funding of major research centers at Einstein in aging, intellectual development disorders, diabetes, cancer, clinical and translational research, liver disease, and AIDS. Other areas where the College of Medicine is concentrating its efforts include developmental brain research, neuroscience, cardiac disease, and initiatives to reduce and eliminate ethnic and racial health disparities. Its partnership with Montefiore, the University Hospital and academic medical center for Einstein, advances clinical and translational research to accelerate the pace at which new discoveries become the treatments and therapies that benefit patients. Einstein runs one of the largest residency and fellowship training programs in the medical and dental professions in the United States through Montefiore and an affiliation network involving hospitals and medical centers in the Bronx, Brooklyn and on Long Island. For more information, please visit www.einstein.yu.edu, read our blog, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and view us on YouTube.