Welcoming Address Class of 2015

Remarks by Robert I. Grossman, MD

August 16, 2011

Good morning everyone, and congratulations on being here! I’m absolutely delighted to welcome you to medical school!

Over the next few minutes, I’d like to give you my personal perspective on this new adventure you’re embarking on. Things have changed so much in medical education since I was in your shoes, that it’s hard to believe only a few short decades have gone by. ;

At least, they seem short to me!!

One thing that has especially changed is how students learn. When I was in medical school, it was a matter of memorizing dense—and sometimes dusty!—tomes.

You, however, will be navigating databases…Googling updates…and immersing yourselves in a virtual world.

We’ve invested a great deal in making sure that NYU School of Medicine gives you access to all the wonderful advantages of the latest technology.

For example, at the New York Simulation Center for Health Sciences—which we’re opening in a few weeks next door in Bellevue Hospital, in partnership with the City University of New York—you’ll be able to practice all kinds of medical and surgical techniques, without ever having to worry that your learning curve might endanger a real patient.

Every aspect of your medical education will be enriched and facilitated by digital advances like those.

  • You’ll be honing your knowledge through web-based learning modules and taking exams online…
  • …exploring the mysteries of cells, genes and molecules using virtual microscopy powered by the same technology that runs Google Maps…
  • …and maybe even listening to your lectures on iTunes at 1.5-times the speed they were originally given!

We’re convinced that all these high-tech opportunities will enrich your education and hopefully make learning much more engaging and much less tedious than it used to be.

But for all they facilitate, electronic "allies" have nothing to contribute to the essence of being a doctor. In fact, every time technology advances, it poses an "equal and opposite" challenge, as the laws of Newtonian physics put it so long ago now.

For doctors-in-training, the challenge—in my eyes—is to make sure that all the "whiz-bang" new capabilities supplement—rather than supplant—the humanity that brought you to medical school in the first place.

To help ensure that happens, we’ve revamped our entire curriculum these past few years, so that –from the very first day of school—you’ll get to meet people who are living with the diseases you’ll be studying.

That means that—instead of spending your first two years concentrating almost exclusively on the textbook intricacies of anatomy and cell biology, as has traditionally been the case in medical education—you’ll get to see, right up front, the ways that illness effects lives—how it can reconfigure daily routines… reshuffle family dynamics…and sometimes (for good or ill) redefine a person’s very sense of self.

I hope these next four years will instill in each of you the unshakable conviction that—while technical proficiency is a "sina qua non" of becoming a great doctor…and an exceedingly demanding sine qua non, I might add!—what your patients will need from you, most deeply, is the gift of yourself.

And from that perspective, I honestly don’t think you could have come to a better place.

For 170 years now—through all the mind-boggling technological and societal changes the world has been through—NYU School of Medicine has championed the doctor-patient relationship as the timeless essence of medicine as a calling.

Who knows what technological tools will be at your disposal by the time you graduate, let alone years and decades from now? Whatever they prove to be, and however profound an impact they may have, I trust you will always hold fast to the ideals that brought you here.

Congratulations, once again. It’s truly wonderful to have you here! Thank you very much.