Yesterday’s Aspiring Doctors, Today’s Inspiration for the Doctors of Tomorrow

“Once upon a time, there was a girl in the car next to her father on the highway. It was raining very heavily and the cars in front came to a halt. A horrific accident had just occurred and all the girl saw, as her father drove past the car involved was a body lying on the floor, covered fully except for his drenched feet. At that moment, the girl had an epiphany. She wished she could have done something; to contribute, to help, to save a life. It was then that she decided to enter the field of medicine.

As we graduate today, I hope that we emerge as doctors who treat patients as humans and not just curious creatures with presenting complaints, socratise them when they have pain, or ask about their social history just because we have to. I remember this one time when I was in the respiratory rotation where I met a patient with whom I connected almost instantly. We talked as though we were old friends; so often that one day he told me, “you know, I feel like I could talk to you”. It may be a very simple statement but as a medical student at that time, I was deeply touched to hear him utter those words. It made me realise that all it takes to make patients feel comfortable is to lend a listening ear.

I could go back and reminisce about the last five years. Instead, I think it is more important to focus on where we will be in the next five years. As graduates, we face many uncertainties in both the immediate and distant future. However, uncertainty is just another word for opportunity. It is entirely up to us what we make of it. Different dreams will lead us to different places. However, we share a common goal- to make a difference in a patient’s life. I hope that that will remain close to our hearts as we go our separate ways.

So ask yourself this: If today was the last day of your life, would you want to do what you’re about to do today? Stay hungry and you will continue trying to consume as much knowledge as possible; stay foolish and you will strive to improve yourself constantly.

An excerpt of a graduation speech by Dr. Vivien Tan Chern Yong, who was conferred at RCSI & UCD Malaysia Campus’ first conferring ceremony. Dr. Tan won the awards for First Place in the Final Examination, Medicine, Surgery, and Obstetrics & Gynaecology. She is also one of seven top students who made it to RUMC’s Dean’s List.

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