To graduating residents: You have already exceeded our expectations


A speech to graduating residents.

It’s an easy thing to count the number of seeds in an apple. In our residency class of 2018 we have nine seeds, and on your graduation, we scatter you across the country. You each carry amazing potential that we have hopefully helped nurture over your years here. You will be caring doctors kneeling by bedsides. You will be national leaders changing policies. You will be medical directors improving healthcare delivery. You will be hospital administrators making medical care more accessible. You will be teachers educating the next generation. You will be researchers, finding better ways to do emergency medicine.

You each have amazing potential.

But there something very intimidating and unsettling about being told your potential is great. Because now you carry the burden of either meeting that potential, or somehow feeling like you are a disappointment.

So on your graduation, I want to tell you this: That if you do nothing more in your careers than you have done already, that you are already caring doctors, team players, leaders, teachers, friends, mentors, helpers. You have already challenged us to be better educators, to be kinder and more patient. You have already made sacrifices for each other and for your patients. You have already performed heroic acts to save patients. You have already volunteered to teach medical students and your co-residents. You have already helped us improve care. You have already knelt at bedsides. You have already held the hands of frightened patients. You have already consoled parents who have lost a child. You have already comforted each other after devastating cases. You have already saved lives.

You have already done enough.

You have already made us proud.

You have already exceeded our expectations.

So I free you from the burden of high potential. I free you from the weight of great expectations. Anything more that you do in your career, do for the sheer joy and goodness of it. If seeing lightbulbs turn on in your learners makes you glow, then keep flipping those switches. If leading your group of fellow physicians allows your team to work better and more efficiently, then become that leader. Figure out what things make you excited to get up in the morning, and do more of them. Figure out what things make you angry and frustrated, and work to fix them. Figure out where there are needs that you have the skills to meet, and meet those needs.

Using your gifts for years to come will transform the world in more ways than you imagine.

It’s an easy thing to count the number of seeds in an apple. But it’s impossible to know how many apples are in a single seed.

You have already exceeded our expectations. But I have no doubt that you will continue to do so.

Christina Shenvi is an emergency physician.

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