This past weekend, I participated in several graduation events, with graduates of all stripes: Bachelors, Masters, PhD, MD. We do not have dental or osteopathic graduates here, our loss. But watching the oscillating and osculating crowds, mostly excited and happy families, mostly happy at the prospect of being off the financial hook for an education, led to an obvious reflection that in medicine, there really is no final graduation. Keynote speakers at two of these events included Dr. Arthur Kellermann, Dean of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and Gen. Eric Shinseki, past Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and past Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs. Both had unique observations on the process unfolding before them, yet both also emphasized the need for the long view: taking care of oneself if one is to serve, or to care for others.
Ours is among those professions that obliges an oath, a compact between its members that sets ethical and practical expectations. The one used most commonly remains the Oath of Hippocrates, a 3000 years-old ritual covenant between physicians and patients. It is the distinction between a medical degree and any other, in that it entails a sworn commitment, similar to that made by police, officers of the military, and other public servants. There is to my knowledge no equivalent compact for those completing their PhD in Romance languages; even though facility in romance languages is a very good thing, and deserves promotion. But, except for a casual appeal to the gods for long life, no mention is made in the Oath, of the obligation to take care of oneself in order to be able to run the marathon that is a medical career. This obligation is not gratuitous; if we remain ethically consistent with the advice we are giving our patients and opt not to be the targets of sarcasm, then we can’t afford to model poor health habits. It’s a bummer, guys, but we have to be as good as our word. And the only reason that I can be forgiven for such finger-wagging behavior in what is nominally an academic periodical, is that I know that much of the reading audience is in recovery. Just as we do not graduate from medicine, so those in recovery do not graduate from recovery.
Please accept the good wishes of the Editorial Board and Staff for your children and loved ones graduating in this season.
– Editor-in-Chief: William Haning, MD, DFAPA, DFASAM
A very good reminder for all of us in the healing arts.