Valedictory Address to the Class of 2017

To our Deans, esteemed faculty and staff, dearest friends and family, and of course, my fellow classmates – I am so honoured to take this stage on such an auspicious morning. On behalf of the Class of 2017, I thank you all for making the time, and for some of you, travelling great distances in order to celebrate with us. I’d also like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to my co-valedictorians, Sam Sanders and Irene Xie, two incredibly kind and tharuna abbu valedictoriandeserving individuals.

I’d like to thank President Barnard, Dean Postl and our other distinguished speakers for previously acknowledging the implications of living on Treaty 1 Territory. I encourage each of us here today to respect this land and its Indigenous peoples in the work that we do, and consider the ways that each of us can dismantle ongoing structures of oppression. This is deeply important.

Today, we look forward in celebration. The Class of 2017 indeed has much to celebrate! We began this journey four years ago as strangers, an odd collection of awkward science geeks, a professional poker player, talented musicians, mothers and fathers, and at least a few engineers who had finally seen the light. Today, we move forward as a family bonded by blood, and pus, and placenta – way too much placenta.

Over the last four years, we’ve grown immensely. We would not have so successfully done so without the support of our families, friends, partners and mentors. We’re privileged to have been also shaped by the unique and challenging experiences of this discipline.

In the classroom, for example, we’ve had the chance to learn from the best of the best.

Everything from Dr. Soni’s excellent lectures on heart murmurs, to Dr. Bernstein’s tour de France of the kidney, we’ll cherish these pearls of wisdom for the rest of our careers. When we are faced with ethical dilemma, the teaching of Dr. Pauls will swim to mind; and despair will give way to the encouragement of Dr. Horton. At all times, I’m sure that we’ll remember the eternal words of Dr. John Embil – that nothing is what it seems; that if you look closely enough, everything … is covered in poop.

And while med school did foster a collective loathing for the question, “so, what do you do for fun,” we cannot forget all that we learned through good times together. As the Wadwahan family could attest to, we’ve impressively challenged the limits of physics and reasonable household rules. We may
have destroyed your house, but thank you for the samosas! Speaking of food, our camaraderie has never proved stronger than when we’d run for the free lunch that may or may not have actually been for our class. As a group, we’ve also embraced our CanMED role of being leaders – we frequently engage
in community outreach at such venues as The Pint and The Kingshead Pub, giving firsthand demonstrations of dysarthric speech and cerebellar dysfunction.

Above all, we have learned from each other. Shilpa Alex and Marshall Wiebe, for example, taught us how to be kind on a daily basis. The Hougen sisters taught us compassion, while the Ians demonstrated what true friendship looks like. And we may never be as brilliant or as humble as Bryce Barr, but coming to terms with our mediocrity is a success in itself! When it comes to smiles, James Lytwyn and Sherri Bilenki taught us how to be generous. When it comes to t-shirt sizes, Yucef Soufi taught us that there is no such thing as “too small”. And Paul Muns, who packs a lunch for his wife every day, will forever be hashtag baegoals. From Margaux Beauchemin, we’ve learned how to infuse passion into everything we do and harnessed courage in the face of adversity from Shayne Reitmeier. And every single day, Marina Roundtree-James, Ruhksana Foster, Namita Kanwar, Mike Plett and Isaac Wiebe have proved that real life superheroes do exist – they just sometimes go by the name of “mom” and “dad.”

These are but a few of the many experiences and teachings that we will call upon as we move into this next chapter of our lives. My dear classmates, my friends, remember that you are not the same people that you were four years ago. Residency, too, will change you. Allow it to do so, because in this work that we do, we cannot afford to stand still. Beyond the academic, please always allow your hearts to be moved. Bend to grief when the patient who reminds you of your grandfather passes in the middle of the night. Roll with laughter when the infant you’re examining pees on your favourite pair of shoes. Rise with integrity when you witness injustice and extend your hand in kindness, over and over and over, to those whose humanity has been forgotten.

Our futures hold so much promise. I am so excited to see how each one of our lives will unfold. I know that we represent the changing face of the physician, and I know that we will continue to prove ourselves innovators, advocates, and curators of this art of medicine. For everything that you have done and for everything that you are, my friends, I could not be more proud of any group of individuals. My deepest and most deserved congratulations to you, the class of 2017.

med school grad cap toss



Photos by Mike Latschislaw/University of Manitoba