At the end of a very unusually troubled academic year, it was a great pleasure for us at the American University of Beirut (@AUB_Lebanon) to celebrate the graduation of fellows, residents, and medical students. This feeling is certainly common and shared by all academic medical centers and medical schools. Graduation is one of the greatest events in our lives. Some graduations pave the way to higher education, while others get us out into the world of work. Graduation from high school paves the way for college, graduation from college paves the way either into employment or to a graduate school, graduate school paves the way for employment or further training. In the case of medical students, further training means proceeding to internship, residency, and fellowship, according to the path of their choice.
Like all training programs, at our ceremony at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (@AUBMC_Official), we celebrated our graduating hematology oncology fellows. In this strange and socially distant year, I wanted to offer a few words of encouragement to our medical graduates in Lebanon and around the world.
Congratulations! You made it! You are now fully trained and well-equipped internists and hematologist-oncologists ready to launch yourselves into the real world and, most importantly, to take care of patients with cancer on your own!
You worked very hard to get here! Your parents made lots of sacrifices to raise you, support you, and help you throughout. You and your proud parents deserve big-time congratulations on all your great achievements. Congratulate yourself, enjoy your achievements, and do not underestimate your accomplishments—but beware of ego overestimation!
You have been through tough times, and if it wasn’t for that, you wouldn’t be where you are now! Training was very demanding, you had to take care of all kinds of patients with cancer, from fully ambulatory to very sick ones. You witnessed your teachers and mentors tackle easy straightforward cases as well as very complex ones. You had to listen to what we say, see how we evaluate symptoms and signs, what to order as laboratory and imaging tests, how to put all the information together and make treatment plans based on evidence where available, or based on expert opinion where evidence lacks. Some of your attendings taught you what to do, others taught you how to figure out what to do. Some attendings delivered information to you while others asked you to dig in for that information. Many times you felt you were overwhelmed with work on the hospital floors, other times you appreciated the time on electives, for example, but from now on, you will savor the memories and enjoy them all!
Things have been rough—at times, very rough. When things are rough, we tell you what we say to all generations of trainees: “It builds personality.” Challenge builds character! You are tougher now! You can face all kinds of problems and handle them. You learned how to be a decision maker. As oncologists, you can now help patients and their families face serious and life-threatening illness. You learned how to help patients face curable and incurable cancers. You learned how to help patients deal with their cancer diagnosis, live with cancer, survive cancer, die with cancer in comfort and peace. You learned how to help people and society prevent cancer. You learned how to support patients and empower them. You learned how to treat patients equitably, irrespective of their origins, skin color, ethnicity, or resources. You have been exposed to global oncology and developed a commitment to reducing disparities in access to treatment and patient outcomes.
Confronted with patients facing a new cancer diagnosis, we expect you now to make well thought out decisions. We expect you to pay attention to communication with scared patients and anxious families. We taught you to be frank and truthful with patients, families, and friends while helping them to see a light at the end of the tunnel! You learned how to tell them prognosis and predictions of response while not forgetting they are human beings who need guidance and hope for not just a longer life, but also for a better quality one.
We hope we taught you science, perseverance, decision making, caring, humility, recognizing unmet needs, and a commitment to research. You learned how to read scientific articles, reviews, and textbooks with a more critical mind. You learned to examine methods, efficacy results, and safety of clinical trials not only for their statistical significance, but also for their clinical significance. You prepared and helped us prepare presentations, manuscripts, original articles, and reviews. You learned how to be confident but also to consult your colleagues. You participated in our multidisciplinary tumor boards and learned how we make collective patient treatment decisions. You recruited patients in local and international studies and clinical trials. Some of you were lucky enough to attend the great ASCO, ASH, and other meetings in person before the pandemic, but you were all able to attend ASCO20 Virtual!
Last but certainly not least, you were heroes, along with all residents and faculty, for being on the front lines of patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You will remember your years in training all your life. You lived at the hospital more than you did at home. You lived with your fellow trainees. You spent more time with us than with your own families. We believe you when you say that we have become your second family. We love you and we wish you the best!! We want you to become better physicians than us, better oncologists than us, to practice what is known but also search for answers for what is still unknown! We congratulate you again and are honored to welcome you as colleagues in our sacred medical profession.
AUBMC fellowship program director Dr. Deborah Mukherji (@dmukherji), graduating fellows Dr. Yolla Haibe and Dr. Rola El Sayed (@cRolicz), and Dr. El Sagir, head of Hematology Oncology Division (@NagiSaghir).
Faculty and fellows cutting the cake at the AUBMC graduation ceremony.