As she prepared to be the keynote speaker for the WMed Class of 2022 commencement ceremony, Donna L. Lamb, DHSc, MBA, BSN, said she searched for the right words that would capture the essence of what was a monumental moment for the medical school’s fifth class of new physicians and graduates of the Master of Science degree programs.
“How could I inspire you as soon-to-be physician leaders to lead with compassion, empathy, and most of all, trust?” said Dr. Lamb, who is president and CEO of the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). “To lead the change toward equity so desperately needed in medicine, in our institutions, and in our communities? To lead the demand for social justice ensuring equal access to high quality healthcare for all?
“As I perseverated for a few moments questioning my ability and my value in giving this address, Dean (Dr. Paula) Termuhlen reminded me that everyone has something to say and that my words might touch someone,” she added.
Dr. Lamb delivered her remarks to students and their families and friends on Thursday, May 12, 2022, at WMU’s Miller Auditorium. The event marked the first time since 2019 that the WMed community and students’ families and friends were able to gather in-person to mark and celebrate the 85 students in the MD Class of 2022 and graduates of the Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences and Master of Science in Medical Engineering degree programs. In 2020 and 2021, festivities were held virtually in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Termuhlen offered her congratulations to the graduates, acknowledging their completion of the medical school’s “rigorous curriculum that our faculty have developed to ensure your success in your chosen careers.” She told the students that the work that awaits them has never been more important than it is now.
“The need for competent and compassionate physicians, biomedical scientists, and medical engineers is greater than ever before as we emerge from the pandemic,” she said. “Among all the many endeavors that you could have selected as a career, congratulations on making a choice that will have such a profound impact on individuals and on the communities where you will live.”
During her remarks, Melissa Pellman, president of the MD Class of 2022, acknowledged the many challenges that she and her classmates overcame during their time at WMed in the midst of the pandemic. But she also looked ahead with optimism and encouraged those in attendance to embrace a moment “to gather with our loved ones as we take one final step into the next stage of our lives.”
“We had to balance our clinical education with safety in an ever-changing learning environment amidst a pandemic,” Pellman said. “Although we have many struggles ahead, I know that I am grateful to leave behind the challenges of medical school. Unfortunately, what comes with the excitement for being done, is sadness as I leave behind my closeness to this wonderful group.”
Pellman recalled how the Class of 2022 fostered a culture of collaboration and support during their four years in Kalamazoo. She said they also worked to listen to one another and grew together “to build the school and community that we wanted to see.”
“I may be prejudiced, but I think we are the strongest class that WMed has seen so far,” Pellman said. “.. And if you can’t tell how I feel about you all yet, let me reiterate, you are all so freaking impressive. I’m floored by the glimpses I’ve seen of the doctors in all of you during our times in the classroom, SIM center, and on the floor of the hospital. You have vast knowledge –even when it feels like we know nothing – and more importantly you have incredible empathy, compassion, and drive to care for your patients. It has been a pleasure to grow with all of you as we developed into physicians.”
As he introduced Dr. Lamb as the keynote speaker for this year’s commencement, Mike Busha, MD, the medical school’s associate dean for Educational Affairs and chair of the Department of Medical Education, thanked the graduates for their resiliency and flexibility during their time at WMed as faculty, residents, students, and staff navigated the pandemic together. He also applauded them for their efforts to help vaccinate community members and share important COVID-19 information with underserved populations in Southwest Michigan.
“Your success as students and as graduates is a measure of our success as an institution,” Dr. Busha said. “… Each graduating class contributes to building our legacy and a rich history of excellence. We look forward to your continued successes throughout your careers. Even though you are graduating today, you will always be part of the WMed family, and you are always welcome home.”
As she concluded her remarks at commencement, Dr. Lamb reminded the students that July 1 – the first day of residency training – is just around the corner and they will begin assuming a leadership role on patient care teams. She said that moment will bring about a feeling of awesome responsibility and the need to establish trust.
“This day, this moment, is all about you,” Dr. Lamb said. “But as you move forward in your life and as a physician, I ask you, will you surround yourself with people who can trust you? Will you celebrate their successes, share in their joy, comfort them when they’re sad or grieving, because they need to trust that you will and they will surely do the same for you.
“There is an age-old African proverb that says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together,’” Dr. Lamb added. “This is true for you in your work as a physician, in your life, as a friend, a loved one, a mother, a father, or whatever you choose to be. So, to you, the 2022 Class of Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, go far, go together. You have earned the honor of being a physician, now earn the honor of being a trusted physician leader.”