A note of confidence
First year students of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine crossed the stage Monday to receive their white clerk’s jacket and be welcomed into the profession of medicine.
But when they returned to their seat, they found something tucked into the pocket of their jacket – a handwritten note to them from a graduate of the medical school.
This year for the first time alumni were asked if they would like to write a note to a beginning student. Many were delighted to respond, enough that each of the 205 new medical students received a different note.
Many of the notes offer encouragement as well as practical advice. Although the alumni were given no direction on what to write, many tell the students to work hard, think independently, look after themselves and have interests outside medicine and to have fun. They warn there will be tears and laughter, but that the McMaster approach to medical education will support them throughout their careers.
Rob Whyte, assistant dean of the undergraduate program and himself a 1997 graduate of the school, said the notes are a marvelous idea.
"For 40 years graduates from McMaster’s medical school have experienced one of the most innovative medical programs in the world, but its relatively unstructured curriculum can create as much uncertainty as freedom. The certainty expressed by our alumni physicians will provide students well-earned confidence in their future success."
Perry Guo, a first year medical student and president of the Class of 2015, said the students will appreciate the notes and he expects many will keep them close to be reread often.
"It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of school," he said. "These words of wisdom from our alumni, who have been through it all, are very heartening."
Alumni of the Michael G. DeGroote School of medicine have a wide-range of advice for the first-year students who received a note in their clerk’s jacket at the White Coat Ceremony Monday. Here are excerpts from the notes:
Mark J. Magenheim, a graduate of 1974 now based in Florida: “I have been fortunate to have travelled the world practicing ‘the McMaster Way’. You will also appreciate the way of learning, and the great resources available to you will ensure you emerge as a competent, compassionate and caring physician. Relish the experiences that await.”
Paul Labrecque, a 1995 grad and family physician in Calgary, wrote: “Remember to balance your life with interests outside of medicine and academia. I highly value my training at McMaster: It has led me to an enriching career.”
Amanda Bell ’98, a family physician in Port Colborne, had this advice: “Eat, sleep and use the bathroom whenever you have the opportunity. Surround yourself with the positive energy and love of those that matter to you. Respect your patients, your teachers and expect respect in return.”
Achilles Thoma ’76, a plastic surgeon in Hamilton, gave specific advice on time management and study habits, adding: “Listen more to what others have to say and speak less. When you speak, make sure your words are sensible and useful to others.”
Lyndsay Rein Evans, ’11, a family medicine resident in Kitchener, said: “Don’t forget to think – independent thought is what got you into medical school. Make sleep a priority. Be kind to allied health professionals – always.”
Rebecca Anglin ’05, a Hamilton psychiatrist, said time will fly by: “Perhaps the greatest lesson I was taught as a student of medicine was to always remain intellectually curious and committed to understanding each patient.”
Andrea Steen ’89, a family doctor in Windsor, said: “Believe that the people in the Mac family will help you develop into an excellent physician.”
Dawn Davies ’93, a pediatrician in Edmonton, had this advice: “Keep grounded in non-medical friendships. Know your neighbours. There is a whole world out there with no pathology!”