It’s commencement time of year for many. I recently attended our youngest son’s medical school hooding ceremony and felt the expected sense of pride and excitement. But, there was much more as I watched his approximately 90 classmates march by. Half of the class was female; every race, religion and ethnicity was represented, and not in just a smattering of numbers. One could not escape the diversity of these hardworking students, who had spent four years in medical school after four previous years as undergraduates. Many also had distinguished themselves with accomplishments in other occupations and fields or had obtained other degrees along the way.
Let’s go ahead and state the obvious for all medical school students these days: They are privileged in many ways. Whatever their background and upbringing, a certain dedication and sense of responsibility was encouraged, as well as the pursuit of a lofty goal. Though most are graduating with significant debt, somehow there was also the means and ability to afford and financially get through. They did all of the hard work and heavy lifting, but one might also add that they were lucky.
I watched future caregivers walk by — women and men not yet cynical, yet certainly very aware of the everyday issues involving medicine: health care costs, a devastating opioid crisis, and the right and need of treatment availability for all. They now are all embarking on more training in residency programs to further hone skills in chosen fields, another three years at a minimum, before facing the real-world problems daily appearing in the media for all to observe but for everyone to eventually and individually experience.
Will some become immune to the difficult issues facing them? Will some eventually become jaded and tarnished? How will they be affected and respond to societal challenges? What I saw was enthusiasm and hope and a sense of responsibility and a willingness to work and continue to think and care and be careful with great compassion. I looked at this very diverse group, an incredibly intelligent and important and empathetic microcosm of our society today, and saw deliverers of fairness. They simply want to do good — goodness that anyone on the political spectrum would agree is good.
There are many graduating classes from all kinds of schools and consisting of all kinds of faces, and they will have obligations and responsibilities all worthy and essential if not to a greater society then to themselves. Diversity is us. Let’s always remember, understand and embrace this. Personally, I am thrilled. Let us all graduate and commence.
Paul Waytz, of Minneapolis, is a physician.