Gayathri Prabhakar, M.D.’18, Class Speaker for the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine Class of 2018, addressed the crowd gathered in Ira Allen Chapel for Commencement May 20, 2018. This blog post is her commencement address in its entirety.
Good afternoon, Class of 2018. I am so excited to be standing in front of you all today (the view from the back of the alphabet isn’t nearly as good). Congratulations everyone; we’ve made it so far, and we’re finally about to become doctors. We can actually put in orders now!
I wanted to take few minutes to think back at the four years we’ve shared together. Now, call me dramatic, but I’ve always imagined my life to be a little bit like a musical. Nickelback’s “Someday” was the theme song to junior high, I thought I was T.I. singing “Whatever You Like” during freshman year of college, and the year before medical school everything shined “bright like a diamond” thanks to Rihanna. Now, reflecting back on the past four years, there are definitely song lyrics I could use to describe the different phases of our journey and a few lessons I have learned along the way that I’d like to share with you. I’ve also mentioned to a few of you that I used to sing in a previous life, so here’s your chance to hear that too. Bear with me.
Let’s start with Chapter I: The Pre-clinical Years. (Singing) It’s a new dawn, It’s a new day, It’s a new life, For me, And I’m feeling good” which quickly turned into “You drive me crazy, I just can’t sleep. I’m [not] excited, I’m in too deep”
We started first year together bright eyed and bushy tailed, armed with advice from friends and family, ready to take on what we had heard would be the most challenging four years. Between asking “Anything else?” over and over again in clinical skills sessions and feeling inappropriately hungry during HSF anatomy dissections we got to have ugly sweater parties, go apple picking (and mainly eat our weight in apple cider donuts), dress up as x-ray machines and piñatas on Halloween, make day trips to Montreal, bike the causeway, have board game nights, and watch sunsets on the lake, maple cremees in hand. The workload got busy, but we kept our heads down and forged on. From the first two years, we learned to be bold, whether that was in reverse-scissoring fascia or meeting new people and exploring a new city.
This brings me to Chapter 2: the beloved Step 1 Period. (singing) “She say ‘Do you love me?’ I tell her, ‘Only partly.’ I only love my bed and my momma I’m sorry.”
Never before, and never since, have I studied so much for one exam. It was an isolating time, with everyone scattered all over the country trying to memorize every last detail of First Aid, UWorld, and Pathoma. I’d like to think my mnemonic game was strong; I can’t tell you what ABCDEFF stood for, but it was really helpful at the time. The experience was tough; it was easy to lose sight of the things we cared about. Would I want to go through it again? Probably not. However, it was a valuable lesson in prioritizing ourselves and balancing school and our overall wellness.
Moving on to Chapter 3: Clerkship. (singing) “I know you know that I made those mistakes maybe once or twice. By once or twice I mean maybe a couple of hundred times. So let me, oh let me redeem, oh redeem, oh myself tonight. ‘Cause I just need one more shot at second chances. Yeah, is it too late now to say sorry?”
Third year we split up, some of us doing ob/gyn in Florida, others doing pediatrics in Maine or surgery at Danbury, and others here. We learned how to take a real history, find actual physical exam findings, and write SOAP notes all day. We were “pimped” (for those of you who haven’t been through this, pimping is the time honored tradition of being asked rapid fire knowledge questions by the resident and attending physicians to assess your knowledge of medicine and other trivia), and we learned how to cut suture right above the knot and move the camera during surgery. Mistakes were made (usually multiple times), but we grew from them. We discovered what specialties we liked and didn’t like, and what we wanted to do going forward.
Chapter 4: Applications. (singing) “Hey I just met you and this is crazy. But here’s my number, so rank me maybe.”
Whether it was a particular location, a partner, warmer weather, or access to good skiing and hiking, everyone had their own process and reasons of choosing what they wanted in a residency program. The interview season was long, tiring, and expensive, but it was a way to see what else was out there and what our lives could become. For the first time after going through the three years together, we learned people decide how they specifically were going to impact the field of medicine.
Chapter 5: Fourth Year. (singing) “Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore. I don’t care what they’re going to say. [Don’t] let the storm rage on. The cold [really] bothered me anyway.”
Fourth year was stressful, but amazing. We did a lot of reading on our reading electives. We became Spanish experts. We were teaching assistants, simterns, research scholars. We marched for amazing causes. We traveled all over the world, from Switzerland to Vietnam to Uganda to Japan. We checked items off of our Burlington bucket lists, braved the frigid temperatures, and skied any chance we could. And I guess we did a few rotations here and there too.
Chapter 6: Match. (singing) “Hands, touching hands. Reaching out, touching me, touching you. Sweet Caroline. Good times never seemed so good. I’d be inclined, to believe they never would.”
Match Day was one of the most amazing days of medical school, a chance for us to celebrate everything we had worked towards. The energy in the Hoehl Gallery at 11:58 a.m. was just something else. Every last bit of nervousness I had disappeared when Tim got called on first to read his envelope, and all I could do was scream, shout and cry for each and every one of you. We were all there for one another. This leads me to the last, most important lesson I learned from you all: Class of 2018, you have really become my best friends, my closest confidantes, and my family. Whether it’s in the emergency room, in MedEd 308, at Sidebar, at the Mayo Clinic, or at the climbing gym, you all have shaped me in ways I can’t describe.
With that, our four years comes to a close. We couldn’t have done it without our wonderful partners, children, parents, advisors, and teachers. Thank you to everyone in Office of Medical Student Education for putting up with all of our saddest and happiest times, and the Office of Admissions for deciding to take a shot on each of us.
Class of 2018, these residency programs are in for a major treat with each and every one of you. Yes, the path ahead is going to be long and really hard, but just remember going forward: be bold, prioritize yourself, do what you love, and we’re only a call away. You know have a place to stay if you’re ever in Philadelphia (and by that I mean Astia’s couch).
And with that, the final credits: (singing) “We’ve come a long way from where we began. Oh I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.”