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For many, Friday the 13th is a much-dreaded occasion. For the University of Michigan Medical School Class of 2011, however, this day was perhaps the most highly anticipated date of the last 4 years. For rather than being a day of avoiding crossing paths with black cats or maneuvering around ladders, this Friday the 13th marked the day when each of us was declared to be a doctor for the first time. In other words, it was certainly the luckiest Friday the 13th I have ever experienced. 

Graduation Day was truly one of the most wonderful and fulfilling days of my life. I was fortunate enough to have 9 of my family members, including my mother and stepfather, father and stepmother, brother Brad, Grandma Bevy and Artie, and of course (faithful blog reader) Rhonnie and Doug, come to Ann Arbor to celebrate with me. We were treated to two wonderful speeches, the first a hilarious and clever discussion by our classmate Stephanie Sherman about how medical school is not unlike the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books many of us perused as children. She closed with an incredibly witty re-imagination of the Hippocratic Oath, which had us all laughing hysterically. 

Our second speaker, former Wolverine head football coach Lloyd Carr, started off by saying that while some may question his credentials as a medical school commencement speaker since he is not actually a doctor, he in fact has been to many doctors himself–not to mention that he has seen quite a few patients in his day, as well. Coach Carr gave a rousing speech in which he underscored the importance of preparation and willingness to serve wholeheartedly in whatever it is that you do. Whereas a football coach who does not adequately prepare for a competition may lose the game, he pointed out, a doctor who does not adequately prepare to take care of one’s patients may just lose a life. This resonated quite a bit with me, as I have often thought throughout the past four years how similar medical school–and, in particular, surgery–is to athletics: the level of commitment and preparation required in training, the excitement and anticipation of performing at a high level, the dedication to constantly improving one’s skills, not to mention suiting up in a special uniform for the big event.  The difference is, of course, that in medicine, the stakes are quite a bit higher (although some die-hard sports fans may disagree with me here…). Mr. Carr closed by reminding us to always faithfully represent and remember where we came from: Michigan.

By far the most emotional portion of the ceremony, however, was the honoring of our classmate, Sujal Parikh, who passed away tragically last fall in Uganda, where he was spending the year conducting HIV/AIDS research. His parents came up on stage to receive a special award bestowed upon him by his classmates, as well as his AOA certificate and medical school diploma. There was a huge rush of emotion that reverberated throughout Rackham Hall as we all stood in his honor, remembering our brilliant and incredibly passionate classmate and mourning the loss of his extraordinary life.  

Unfortunately, it appears that I was not the only one who was ready to be done with medical school: after 4 solid years, my trusty computer broke down this morning and sadly I am unable to post a graduation photo at this time due to an intractable blue screen. I will work on this…right after I return from Italy in a week! As an incredible graduation gift, my family is sending me on a tour through Rome, Florence, and Venice before I get ready to finish (or, more accurately, begin) packing up to head out to Boston. I will check in one last time when I return…but until then, Ciao! (which is unfortunately pretty much the only word of Italian i know).