By Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH
AACOM President and CEO
ear Class of 2018,
Congratulations! You have just accomplished something very few people ever do—you have finished medical school. But your journey in medicine is far from the finish line… in fact, in many ways, it is just beginning.
In the coming month, you will be starting your residencies, meeting patients for the first time with the title of “doctor”, having much greater responsibility for their care than you experienced as a student, and learning the ropes of your new environment. In the coming years, you will meet countless new patients and their families and learn their stories, gain unique and unexpected experiences, and grow professionally from working with the many mentors and colleagues that will surround you. And you will have the need to collaborate with others in the health care environment—your attendings, fellow residents, students, nurses, pharmacists, and a variety of technically skilled providers—to be team members and sometimes a team leader to deliver the best quality of care possible. Your path is wide open before you.
This is an incredible time to enter the health care workforce. The demand for physicians is growing and you will play a critical role in not only meeting that demand, but also serving as an example and inspiration to future osteopathic physicians and pre-medical students in the beginning phases of pursuing their dream of becoming a physician. As the number of DO graduates continue to grow every year, you are now a part of a critical and mounting movement focused on promoting and practicing osteopathic principles—prevention-focused, patient-centered, and empathic health care.
At the same time, you will serve as a champion for our profession—an honor I know each of you takes very seriously. I encourage you to seek out leadership opportunities and partnerships in your areas of practice and find ways to keep connected to your colleges and to the osteopathic community. You will have the unique opportunity of leveraging your unique qualities as a DO to make a positive impact on the ongoing evolution of the health care landscape.
This career will change you. As you expand on your competence and experience, you may find that people look up to you, defer to you, assume that you have the answers they seek. Be humble in your knowledge—recognize the gaps that exist and strive to fill them. You will always need to earn the right to be a trusted source for advice, a partner in collaboration, a counselor, and the person that your patients depend on throughout their lives to help guide them to better health.
Yes, this career will also change you because you are now a DO, and you embody the lessons and knowledge that this prestigious path provides. I urge you to be open to the possibilities that will surely present themselves to you, and to push for progress and excellence in all that you do. I also encourage you to consider serving as a mentor for future osteopathic medical students and physicians as they seek to follow that path. But most of all, I hope that you will always look back at your years in medical school and remember this time as the beginning of the adventure that has led you forward to fulfil your calling to be an osteopathic physician.