Health + Behavior

Renowned surgeon tells UCLA medical graduates, ‘All lives are of equal worth’

At Hippocratic oath ceremony, Dr. Atul Gawande charges new doctors to maintain their curiosity

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Some 200 UCLA medical students received their diplomas Friday, June 1, in Dickson Court at the 64th annual Hippocratic oath ceremony for the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. 

The keynote speaker, Dr. Atul Gawande, is a practicing surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of four New York Times bestsellers, including “Being Mortal,” about how doctors handle death. Addressing the graduates and their families, he drew on his early experience as a resident caring for a prisoner.

“Graduates, you are about to be tested. The test will be about your ability to hang onto the principle that all lives are of equal worth,” said Gawande, whose remarks were published in The New Yorker. “We in medicine don’t always live up to that principle.”

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Gawande noted that Americans are living at a time when every form of curiosity is under attack, and he emphasized that curiosity is one of the most important tools a new physician can possess.

“You must guard it, for curiosity is the beginning of empathy,” he said.

Dr. John Mazziotta, vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences and CEO of UCLA Health, called for applause for the graduates’ parents. “Raising daughters or sons who can excel in and complete medical school is not an easy task,” he said. “But through your dedication, they are here today. Love and learning are similar. They’re never wasted.”

Dr. Kelsey Martin, dean of the medical school, challenged the graduates to address disparities in health care throughout their careers.

“What’s the worth of medical knowledge and discoveries if they’re not linked to the humanitarian desire to heal?” she asked. “We, and especially all of you, as brilliant, energetic, young doctors, must solve the problem of delivering healthcare to all of our citizens.”

Martin also presented Dr. Jamil Aboulhosn, UCLA’s Streisand Professor of Cardiology, with the Sherman Mellinkoff Faculty Award, the medical school’s highest faculty honor. Mazziotta recognized visionary philanthropists Connie Frank, and Maxine and Eugene Rosenfeld, who served as honorary marshals. 

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