I’m delighted to share with you that ACPM held its inaugural Preventive Medicine Virtual Residency Graduation Program on June 6.
Congratulations to all the Preventive Medicine residency graduates on your terrific accomplishment now that you have successfully completed your residency training in Public Health & General Preventive Medicine. You should take time to revel in your stellar accomplishment and fully enjoy it, before rushing off to the next and the next and the next important things in your lives. This is a singular moment in your career trajectory, one whose importance you should appreciate, acknowledge, and enjoy!
Thank you also to the Residency Program Directors who have served to teach, mentor, and as needed, given you that gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) push to get things done for your own success!
Thank you also to the family members who have helped you all to be the successful graduates you are today. A successful journey through life depends not only on your talent and hard work and good decisions, it also requires the love and support and help from many loved ones who care for you.
Your career in preventive medicine may range from delivering clinical care to individual patients in health centers, to performing administrative and leadership work in local, state and federal agencies, to working in academics, the military, or in the corporate world or in several of those arenas over the next 30 to 40 years. And the advice I give to new preventive medicine physician colleagues is to try and do work that you find to be interesting and important. Remember, you are the master of your fate and the captain of your soul, as the poem Invictus reminds us.
What did you dream of doing when you applied to medical school? What about when you graduated from medical school? How about now? What do you dream of now that you are a qualified preventive medicine physician? Langston Hughes wrote about Dreams and he said:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly
When I graduated in 1995 from the Stony Brook Residency program, I dreamt of working to improve health worldwide. I had no idea that I would work for a county health department in Cleveland, Ohio, in academics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and in the pharmaceutical industry. But 28 years later, I’ve enjoyed the variety of experiences that I have been fortunate to have – seeing patients, teaching, setting-up fellowships, leading large organizations globally, and going to 45 countries, while working to create new products for better health worldwide.
So, for each of you, what now? Start by enjoying this experience. If you think that comment is redundant, it is! And deliberately so. We as physicians tend to delay gratification and postpone too much in our lives, so I’m here to remind you to enjoy this success and all the other successes that will come your way in the next decade or three! Maybe it’s the Guyanese/West Indian heritage I possess, which encourages us to have a wonderful party whenever something good happens in our lives.
As you celebrate, think and plan for the next third of your life. The first third has been spent getting you ready by building a solid foundation for you to soar into the world. This next third is about fulfilling the promise, the potential that you have, as you begin your careers in preventive medicine.
You can begin by asking yourself these questions:
What do you want to do? And this is perhaps the hardest question to answer.
Where do you want to do it?
How much do you need to get paid to be happy?
I would also encourage you to choose to do the hard things, which as President Kennedy said, serves to organize and harness the best of our energies and skills.
Contribute to society to make it better than how you found it. As Emerson wrote, “I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
During my inauguration as ACPM President in March in New Orleans, I shared that my father had told me about the ancient Greek definition of happiness, which is the full use of your powers along lines of excellence. My advice to you is to do exactly that! Fully utilize your amazing talents along lines of excellence and have a sense of urgency, along with a bias for action, to execute and get done what YOU want to get done in your life. You can always do more than you think you are capable of, so take the initiative and do it!
Lastly, please allow me touch on a topic of vital importance; looking after yourselves and preventing burnout! This has become all too common in medicine. You must look out for your own well-being, even as you look out for the well-being of your fellow Americans and citizens of the world. Manage your energy by managing your: body – physical energy; emotions – quality of energy (positive vs negative); mind – focused, not multi-tasking; and the spirit – seek meaning and purpose.
Follow the precepts of what you tell your patients to do as it relates to Preventive Medicine & Lifestyle Medicine:
Eat – a plant-based diet
Sleep – 7+ hours
Move – 150 minutes per week
Stress – meditation, exercise, reading, prayer, or what works for you
Substances – avoid drugs, tobacco, vaping, alcohol, cholesterol, caffeine, sugar, & salt
Connect – with family, friends, colleagues
BMI – <25 for most (<23 if you’re of Indian descent)
Purpose – meaning in life
I’ll close with a passage from the Psalm of Life, where Longfellow writes that:
Lives of great ones all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time
I eagerly look forward to seeing the footprints you will leave behind as you walk through this second third of your lives. Come join us at ACPM as we seek to help you succeed in your careers – whether in getting grants, presenting at our Prevention 2024 Meeting in DC and beyond, being published in the AJPM, serving on an ACPM committee or in a Special Interest Group, there is much for us to do together.
I want to say thank you to ACPM’s CEO, Ms. Donna Grande and all of the ACPM staff for pulling this terrific event together and for making sure to follow-up with each of you to see how the ACPM can best meet your needs as you begin your careers in Preventive Medicine.
Heartiest congratulations again to all of you on behalf of the American College of Preventive Medicine’s Board of Regents, Past Presidents, Fellows, members, the staff, and myself to the graduating Preventive Medicine residents in the class of 2023! Now let the fun and sun of summer begin. Enjoy!