The AMA Tribute to the Medical School Class of 2020

Graduation Tribute
The AMA Tribute to the Medical School Class of 2020
May 20, 2020

The AMA's national tribute to the medical school class of 2020 honors the 30,000 medical students who graduated this spring. Leading names in the field of medicine were joined by actors who have portrayed doctors in TV and movies and other notable celebrities to offer encouragement, advice and inspiration. Hosted by actor/comedian Brian Unger ("Dr. Stafford," "Yellowstone"), the event put a spotlight on 2020 medical school graduates and their future work improving health as they embark on their careers as physicians.

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Supporting you today as a medical student. Protecting your future as a physician.


Brian Unger, actor/comedian

Actors playing physicians on TV/movies

  • Ellen Pompeo ("Grey’s Anatomy") 
  • "Scrubs" creator Bill Lawrence reassembled cast members Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, Neil Flynn, John C. McGinley and Judy Reyes 
  • Matt Czuchry ("The Resident," "The Good Wife," "Gilmore Girls") 
  • Nicholas Gonzalez ("The Good Doctor") 
  • Ken Jeong, MD ("Crazy Rich Asians," "Community," "Dr. Ken") 
  • Jane Seymour ("Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman") 
  • Matt Walsh ("The Hangover," "Veep") 

Additional actors

  • Jeff Bridges (Academy-Award®-winning actor, "Crazy Heart") 
  • Drew Carey (actor, comedian, host) 
  • Tony Goldwyn ("Scandal") 
  • Marcia Gay Harden (Academy-Award®-winning actress, "Pollock," "Code Black") 
  • Regina King (Academy-Award®-winning actress, producer, director) 
  • Rob McElhenney ("It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia," Apple TV’s "Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet") 
  • Kaitlin Olson ("The Mick," "It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia") 
  • Craig T. Nelson ("Coach," "Parenthood") 

TV/media physicians

  • Lisa Sanders, MD (Netflix's "Diagnosis")  
  • Mikhail (Mike) Varshavski, DO (Dr. Mike on YouTube)

Musical artist

  • Zach Heckendorf, with an acoustic version of his new single, "Up," courtesy of Aware Music/Missing Piece Group 

Physician speakers

  • VADM Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH, U.S. Surgeon General  
  • Donald M. Berwick, MD, MPP, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement; former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services 
  • Esther Choo, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University; founder of Equity Quotient and #GetMePPE 
  • Anthony S. Fauci, MD, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases 
  • Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, surgeon, writer and public health innovator; professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School
  • Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, AMA President 
  • Aletha Maybank, MD, MPH, AMA Chief Health Equity Officer  
  • David Satcher, MD, PhD, 16th Surgeon General of the United States and former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health 
  • Anne Schuchat, MD, Principal Deputy Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

May 20, 2020

Unger: Greetings, graduating medical students, proud parents and families and physicians of America. Thank you so much for joining us on this very special night as we celebrate, honor and pay tribute to the tremendous accomplishments of the next generation of physicians, the Medical School class of 2020. I'm Brian Unger, and somehow the AMA thought I would be the best person to host this event. I'm not a doctor, but I do play Dr. Stafford on the hit drama Yellowstone, and you may have seen some of my work. I most recently removed a mass from Kevin Costner's abdomen. It was benign. So who better to guide you through this tribute?

Now, speaking of showbiz, what do you say we get this show started? For our big opening number, we don't have any dancers, and we don't even have an orchestra, but we do have a few of my friends here who wanted to kick things off. I present to you more actors who play doctors on TV.

Braff: Graduates, hello. It is I, Zach Braff. How are you? Congratulations. Holy—you did it. I may have been a fake doctor, but I learned a lot of things over nine years on Scrubs. The most important thing I learned is that you don't really have to go to med school to be a successful doctor.

Dr. Jeong: This is Ken Jeong, and I'd like to congratulate the class of 2020 from medical schools nationwide.

Faison: Wow, you did it. Congratulations, everyone. I'm very proud of you. I didn't do it. I pretended to do it. For nine years I pretended.

Pompeo: Graduating class of 2020, congratulations. Well, you certainly don't have an easy road ahead of you.

Walsh: I wanted to thank you all individually on this video. So Abigail Aaron, thank you.

Flynn: Congratulations, med school graduate hot shots. Rest at ease. I have retired from the maintenance field and I am not part of a national coalition of janitors who are intent on making the lives of young doctors miserable.

Walsh: Thank you, Abigail Abrams. Wow. A lot of Abigails.

Reyes: So med school graduation. Wow. All these years and all this hard work, and we couldn't need you more. It's like the superheroes we've been longing for.

Seymour: I can't thank you enough. You know, the world is so uncertain right now. We need you more than ever, and I am just so grateful that you've chosen to join the medical profession.

Chalke: My little three-year-old already talks about wanting to be a doctor when she grows up. What she doesn't know how incredibly hard she's going to have to work to achieve that goal. What you all just did is nothing short of superhuman. You've made your family so proud.

Gonzalez: And as physicians, you know your education is just beginning. You still have so much ahead of you in the form of residencies and fellowships and research. It can all seem a bit daunting.

Dr. Jeong: Don't lose your sense of compassion and empathy, no matter how tough things get.

McGinley: You’ve got more courage in your pinky than most of us have in our entire lives.

Pompeo: You have your whole life ahead of you to innovate, to create, to decide how you want to move through life and move through this career.

Gonzalez: The world needs your knowledge, but it craves your compassion.

Czuchry: Before you go out into the great unknown, treasure this present moment. Treasure this day. This day is a celebration of all your hard work, your sacrifice, your early wake ups, your doubts, your tears. Treasure this present moment before you embrace the future.

Reyes: At the end of the day, you can't pull this off without the nurses by your side.

Gonzalez: They actually know what they're doing.

Braff: So whatever you learned in school is bull—. You don't need that. You just grab one of these, and you turn it on, and no, seriously, let's say someone needs to be defibrillated. You do that.

Pompeo: I wish you all a lot of luck.

Dr. Jeong: Congratulations and wishing you much love.

McGinley: Go get them. Be safe. We love you.

Seymour: Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Braff: Go make a difference.

Flynn: Knock them dead.

Gonzalez: Congratulations again.

Czuchry: As you take care of others, make sure you take care of yourself during this process as well.

Faison: Keep it real. Do your thing. Make it happen. Give it 100. That's what I'm talking about.

Walsh: Thank you, Zazu Zimbalist.

Unger: I am very pleased to introduce the President of the AMA, Dr. Patrice A. Harris, a psychiatrist joining us from Atlanta, Georgia to offer her words of encouragement and support to the approximately 30,000 medical student graduates across the country. Dr. Harris?

Dr. Harris: Thank you. Greetings, graduates, and all of the family members, loved ones and friends who are sharing this moment with you. It is my pleasure to be here to congratulate you on behalf of the American Medical Association. Right now, we are all experiencing a time we could not have imagined just a few short months ago. Graduating from medical school in the midst of a global pandemic, no doubt, is replete with mixed emotions and thoughts, and that's okay. Yes, there are feelings of loss for how you envision this moment, but I know there is also joy and a sense of accomplishment, so allow yourselves the space and time to feel all of those feelings and think all of those thoughts, but I encourage you to cherish and celebrate this moment as the culmination of all of your hard work, dedication and commitment.

Change in medicine and life is constant, and every generation must face its own challenges. Your challenges include starting your careers in the midst of a health crisis, the magnitude of which we have not seen in generations, working to master ever-changing technology without losing that human touch, working to maintain connectedness and a sense of community in a world that can at times feel impersonal and isolating, making sense of and deciphering the glut of information, and unfortunately misinformation, that is always at our fingertips, and living in an age of anxiety and polarization. But in the midst of all of these challenges and all of this change, do you know what won't change? Your passion to serve, your compassion for others, your perseverance, your dedication to science and evidence. The very qualities that led you to medicine are those that you can trust to lead you through your careers.

You no doubt have already overcome significant challenges and hurdles in your journey. You've had sleepless nights and difficult exams. You've been challenged to excel by your professors, your supervisors, and your patients. You have shown courage in admitting mistakes and a willingness to change, and you have been well prepared by the best medical schools in the world. Many of you have benefited from a renewed effort undertaken by the AMA and other institutions to change medical education and residency for a new era, to equip you with the training and skills to meet the needs of 21st century patients, a diverse, connected, dynamic population that is counting on you to care for them. You've been resilient and strong in envisioning and adapting to creative, modern ways of caring for people.

Physicians will always face obstacles. The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified the challenges we already face in delivering care equitably and improving access to care for all, and addressing the many health needs, both mental and physical, of some 330 million people. But I see these not as intractable challenges, but as intractable opportunities, opportunities that we as physicians fully embrace. As I often say, physicians don't run away from problems. We run towards them. So thank you. As you step forward in this moment, know that it will not last forever, and know that physician leadership, your leadership, is needed now more than ever. So to all the graduates and family members, friends, and mentors watching with you, congratulations, and enjoy the celebration.

Before we move on with the rest of the program, it is important that we pause to recognize the sacrifices made by many of our colleagues. Physicians, nurses, and healthcare workers on the front lines of this pandemic continue to pay a heavy toll in their service to their patients. Many have fallen seriously ill. Some have died. Before I introduce the next speaker, please join me in a moment of silence to remember and honor those who have lost their lives fighting COVID-19.

And now it is my great pleasure to introduce Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy, Immunology and Infectious Diseases. We are thrilled that he is joining us.

Dr. Fauci: Warm greetings to you all from Bethesda, Maryland. My name is Tony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. I am truly delighted to have this opportunity to address the medical student class of 2020. I feel honored and enthusiastic to offer encouragement and gratitude to this particular class of graduates across the United States as we all face the challenge of an historic global pandemic that has upended the world as we know it. This event has impacted everything we are doing, including celebrating a very special event in your lives, something I still treasure cherish to this day, namely my own graduation from medical school. However, looked at another way, this challenge is exactly what you trained for, and a successful response requires the training that you have received.

Now more than ever, we need your talent, your energy, your resolve and your character. Some of you will be the physicians and/or healthcare providers, caring for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Others of you will be the biomedical researchers elucidating how SARS-CoV-2 causes disease, or you will be developing medical solutions, diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. Directly or indirectly, however, it is inevitable that all of you, no matter your chosen field, will experience some impact of this pandemic on your newly emerging medical careers.

I remember clearly when I was at the NIH in the early 1980s that the recognition of a new virus, later named HIV, caused me to make an abrupt turn in my own career. Only decades later could I adequately reflect on how enormous an impact that virus has had on the global community. Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed us in a similar period of uncertainty. We have no clear idea of what the future of this pandemic holds for us. Will we have a second wave, similar to the second wave of the catastrophic influenza pandemic of 1918? Whatever the case, all of us must do our part, as individuals, as members of families and as connected participants in society.

A staggering number of lives have been lost in just a few months, and the road to some form of normality will be neither fast nor easy. I am confident, however, that you will be in the vanguard to overcome this challenge. And so, my colleagues, stay safe, do good work, and I look forward to the many contributions you will make to medical science and patient care in the decades ahead. To the medical student class of 2020, congratulations on your graduation and the hard work that brought you here. Good luck. I wish you all the best.

Unger: Thank you, Dr. Harris and Dr. Fauci, for those words of inspiration. Now please welcome Dr. Atul Gawande, surgeon, writer, public health innovator, and professor at the Harvard T. H. Chan school of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, as well as Ms. Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who each have some important words to share as you take these next steps in your journey.

Dr. Gawande: Hi. I am so excited and glad about this opportunity to talk to you today. Thank you for letting me. History has called upon medical students in times of need before. In World War II, schools put students on accelerated three-year pathways in order to get out onto the wards where staff had been sent overseas. In the pandemic of 1918, again, schools graduated people early in order to serve. It was an all hands on deck moment. We have one of those moments in history now, and we are so glad you were there and you were willing to serve.

There is a core difference between medicine then and medicine now, however, and that is how much more complex medicine has become. Knowledge and capability is moving faster than the internet. We have discovered that the 13 organ systems in our bodies can go wrong in 70,000 different ways. We have 70,000 different diagnoses and conditions, and we have identified 6,000 drugs and 4,000 medical surgical procedures that we can provide to address those diagnoses, and now our job has become to deploy that capability town by town to every person alive. I've argued that this is the most ambitious thing that human beings have ever attempted.

The coronavirus has only added to the complexity. It has undone some of the most basic ways we are used to providing care. It is the most radical disruption in health, and the most radical disruption of our healthcare system since at least World War II, but what I want you to remember is that some things do not change. There are three basics of great care to remember regardless of the complexity and the circumstances. Number one, understand your patient. Always understand a person's goals and priorities for their care. Those goals and priorities will differ from person to person, and then, also differ for a given person over time. You have to ask them what are their hopes and fears for their health? What are they willing to go through and what are they not willing to go through for the sake of more time? What matters to them most?

Physicians ask such questions less than a quarter of the time. When we don't ask our care is much more likely to be out of line with people's goals and priorities for our service. The result of that is suffering. When we ask, however, we understand what they need and can provide it, and you gain a trust, and a bond that is more meaningful than people in other professions can ever know. Number two, design a plan in line with those goals and priorities. You're going to be bringing your best knowledge and capabilities to bear, but you want to do it according to a plan that's tuned to the needs that you have learned the person wants you to serve. Care requires systems and protocols, but it is always individual.

Third, you have the priorities, you have a plan to meet those priorities, now execute. We can tend to take execution for granted, just assume things will happen the way they're supposed to, but that is complex to. Following through for people requires a lot more than just you and your particular capabilities. The biggest challenge I think you're likely to face is learning how to be effective at working together with others, how to harness everyone's capabilities together to make the right care happen. That is hard. I find I have to work at this every day. You have disagreements, you will have disappointments, you will need to have difficult conversations, but you will also see what a beautiful thing it is when a group of people become clear about the priorities that they aim to serve for a person, and then, pull together in that same direction.

That is the joy of medicine, being effective at what matters for people. This then is my wish for you. Go forward, do good, and do it together. Thank you all for your service at this critical time.

Gates: Congratulations graduates. While this may feel like a daunting time to begin this next chapter, it is also a moment when the world desperately needs your skills and your creativity. Whatever path you decide to take, I hope you use the education you've received to contribute to a healthier, more equal future.

Dr. Jani: What being a physician means to me is being a leader, not just in the OR, in the clinics, but also, in the community.

Dr. Patel: This is, I truly believe the highest honor and privilege.

Dr. Lucas: Becoming a physician means I'll play a small, but meaningful role in improving people's lives and health.

Dr. Patel: I get to take care of people when they're most vulnerable.

Dr. Shah: Doctors, I've realized, don't simply treat people, but rather guide their patients emotionally and intellectually.

Dr. Brahmaroutu: You are really joining the most altruistic profession out there.

Dr. Shah: And, I can't wait to shoulder this responsibility.

McElhenney: Whoa, you're graduating from medical school?

Olson: I don't—

McElhenney: Okay. Let's just start off by saying you are all—

Olson: Way—

McElhenney: Every one of you, way—

Olson: Way cooler than us.

McElhenney: I was going to say smarter, because I'm pretty cool, let's be honest.

Olson: A little cooler than you because of how smart and useful they are.

McElhenney: Okay. I mean, can I have something? These people are going to go save the world, and be—

Olson: You've got a great body.

McElhenney: Doctors, and—

Olson: You've worked really hard on it.

McElhenney: Well, thank you, thank you. Let's make this about a little bit about me, but I guess mostly about to the people who—

Olson: Congratulations.

McElhenney: Have just put years, and years, and years, and years of work.

Olson: It's unfathomable. We are so proud of you.

McElhenney: We need you.

Olson: We need you.

McElhenney: We need you.

Olson: You might be scared to be entering the workforce at this particular time, but thank you so much. Thank you for choosing this path. The world needs you, and we're incredibly grateful.

McElhenney: Congratulations to everybody and get out here fast.

Olson: Please.

McElhenney: Bye.

Dr. Church: Greetings to you the medical school class of 2020.

Dr. Tinney: Hi there. I just want to say congratulations to the graduating fourth years.

Dr. Bisgrove: Congratulations to the class of 2020.

Dr. Lesko: Hey class of 2020. First off, congratulations on the graduation. You definitely picked an interesting time to join the profession.

Dr. Correa: We are living in difficult situation, but all of you achieved a big milestone. Congratulations.

Dr. Byerley: The one piece of advice I have for you is to trust yourself.

Dr. Correa: Whenever you start your residency, you just put passion and energy in everything you do.

Dr. Byerley: I know that this is an incredibly anxiety provoking time to become a physician. Let me assure you, your educators have made sure that you're prepared, you're ready, you're ready to serve in this pandemic time, and in all times, and the strategies where you've been learning in the past you will keep learning throughout your career.

Dr. Tinney: If I had one piece of advice to give, it would be to embrace the fear of the unknown you may be starting to feel about your internship. Every time I was called or asked to do something new, I was definitely nervous about messing up, but in the end, I went home almost every day with a new experience and a new tool in my toolkit.

Dr. Church: You could do anything you set your mind to do, and even more important, don't be afraid to take risks.

Dr. Lesko: The piece of advice I can give you is to find something for this coming year that's just for you. Internship is going to take as much as you're willing to give, and you need some sort of pressure release valve for when things feel like they're getting overwhelming. It doesn't matter what it is. It's just got to be something you enjoy.

Dr. Bisgrove: I want you all to do something. I want you to make a list all the reasons why you went into medicine, so that when the going gets tough, you can take out that list and remind yourself of all the reasons you went into this profession.

Dr. Church: Enjoy your life. Again, congratulations.

Dr. Correa: Congratulations again, class of 2020.

Dr. Bisgrove: I'm so proud of all of you.

Dr. Lesko: Congratulations, and welcome to the next level.

Dr. Varshavski: Always approach the field of medicine with an aura of humility. Know that you will never have all the answers. Medical knowledge and science will change throughout your lifetime, and the more you lean into this uncertainty and being okay with saying, I don't know the better you're going to fare.

Dr. Sanders: Hi, this is Dr. Lisa Sanders, and it is such an honor to able to congratulate the class of 2020. This is an extraordinary time in the life of this world, and it's an extraordinary time to become a doctor, but I promise you, I assure you, there has never been a better, more exciting, maybe more challenging time to become doctor than right this very moment, right now. You're entering the world of medicine at a time of history of medicine, and of human life. This is amazing.

Harden: Hi, I'm Marcia Gay Harden. I know, I know I'm not a doctor. I just played one on TV, but that experience of playing an emergency room doctor really taught me what kind of amazing challenges you face every day, and how much heart and humanity you inherently have to do this job. Today I want to say congratulations. The whole nation is so proud of you. Thank you for your tremendous heart, and as you graduate, there is not a doubt in anyone's mind just how much we need you, how much we appreciate you, and how much we depend on you. Health truly is the greatest wealth. God bless you. Stay safe, and thank you.

Unger: Okay, so let's take a few minutes to hear from two physicians who have been leading the charge on various fronts during this COVID pandemic, Dr. Ester Choo, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, and founder of Equity Quotient and the #GetMePPE movement, as well as the nation's surgeon, Vice Admiral and Dr. Jerome M. Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General.

Dr. Choo: Greetings to the class of 2020. Your path to this moment has been atypical to say the very least. We took you out of the classroom, and off the wards, and you blossomed into a brand new workforce providing childcare for frontline healthcare workers, distributing PPE, volunteering as contact tracers, conducting COVID research and organizing entire volunteer networks to support critical health system functions. Some of you even graduated early, and began your training at a time when doing so placed you at unusual risk. Together, you provided a groundswell of support facing the multitude of gaps in our current healthcare system, and filling as many of them as you could.

I also know that you did much of this work out of the spotlight and without the accolades given to those in current clinical practice. You modeled the power of large groups of committed helpers. We often say that residency training is when you truly begin the process of learning to be a physician, but in your actions, you've demonstrated how ready you are to care for others and protect the health of Americans. There's another way that you are already prepared today to do the essential work of a physician, and that is taking what you learned in medical school and translating it to the public at large. You may have seen the recent New York times opinion piece dedicated to explaining how the predictive value of a test is dependent on disease prevalence in the context of COVID, if you did, I hope you appreciated perhaps for the first time ever your introductory at NBME biostats class.

Never before has the public so needed the basics of what we learned in medical school. We have to fully inhabit the interface between science and the public through our spoken and written words, and doing so is not optional, because it turns out that being able to message clearly about concepts like infectious disease transmission, droplets and aerosol particles, PPE and face coverings, test characteristics and disease surveillance is the difference between one public behavior and another, one policy and another, and as you have seen in this moment, truly the difference between life and death.

Although, today we are celebrating your new role as physicians, I would like to confer a few additional titles on you. Public health advocate, health communicator and data translator. These titles are non-transferable and will not expire for the lifetime of your career. I confer them on you along with a few asks that come with the responsibility of these roles. I ask that you be curious, respectful and humble. I ask that as you correct misinformation, you also lean into the discomfort of being wrong yourself at times, because demonstrating how one listens, learns and grows is part of communicating good science. I ask that you recognize when you must be the one to speak and when it is time to lift up the voices of others. Be uncompromising when it comes to advocating for the health of the population, particularly its most vulnerable, but be flexible when it comes to meeting the needs of people where they are.

I ask that your public facing words be driven by nothing less than the necessity of contributing meaningfully to knowledge, understanding and better health for all. I know this has been the strangest possible year in your education, but I believe the lessons of this year marked by both tremendous isolation and tremendous collective effort against COVID-19 will make you the most powerful, outspoken, connected and innovative group of healers that has ever entered medicine. Congratulations to the class of 2020. I'm so proud to be your colleague.

Dr. Adams: I'm U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams. Though this may seem like an especially challenging time to graduate from medical school, you've chosen a profession that is all about helping those in need, and now more than ever, people need your help. There's never been such a spotlight on the important work of physicians and your knowledge, skills, commitment and compassion have never been of greater value. Though I know there's some apprehension, you've all received excellent training, and I know you're well prepared for your journeys ahead, and if you're as lucky as I've been, you'll discover your career has many unique chapters and opportunities that extend well beyond patient care, but that have their roots in lessons and values learned during your time in med school.

If you don't mind, I'd like to leave you all with some advice. First dare to be innovators and disruptors. A novel coronavirus has shown us that it's time for new thinking. Never before have graduates entered their careers with so much opportunity to think outside the box and shape the future of health and healthcare. Second, advocate for your patients and profession. Throughout my career, I've learned my voice and my advocacy can save as many lives as my scalpel or stethoscope. Third, strive to be good people and not just good physicians. My favorite saying is that people need to know you care before they care what you know.

Finally, practice good self-care. Just as a car can't go as far or as fast on a flat tire, you can't give your best effort if you aren't mentally, physically, and spiritually running on all cylinders, so from the nation's doctor to the new doctors of the nation, I want you to know I could not be more proud of all of you. Congratulations, class of 2020.

Drew Carrey: Hi, everybody. It's Drew Carrey here. I just want to say congratulations on your graduation from medical school. They asked me to be part of this to congratulate you. I'm so honored. Isn't it great to be smart, to be able to do something like this? Congratulations on being born with a brain that I don't have, obviously, but yeah, it's pretty amazing, and I want to congratulate all of you for all the hard work, and the debt you're going into, and everything else. Seriously, if you're going into the heart industry, or anti-aging industry, or the hair loss industry, see you soon.

Dr. Patel: One thing that gives me hope is knowing that we are banding together.

Dr. Bronner: From organizing service projects to PPE drives to writing letters and sending petitions, our medical students really are fighting for change right now.

Dr. Brahmaroutu: These are the most passionate leaders I've met in my entire life, and they will be your future doctor.

Dr. Shah: I have seen so many more of us organize and advocate. And so amidst all this chaos, I'm hopeful.

Dr. Bronner: I am so optimistic that the future of medicine is so bright if it means that these are the kind of people that are going to be taking the lead.

Dr. Stack: To the medical school class of 2020, congratulations and welcome to the medical profession. In these upside down and uncertain times, you have a very certain role. The coronavirus has dealt a terrible blow to our society and the world has never needed you more. I wish for you all a wonderful professional journey, and I thank you for the many people you will help in your professional journey ahead. Thank you, best wishes and God bless.

Bridges: Wow. Today is a very special day. I'm here to commemorate and acknowledge all of you, the medical school class of 2020. My gosh, you guys, you're wonderful. I mean, come on. Congratulations on your accomplishment, man. I can't think of another group of individuals with a more essential role to play in the world. Your vocation, I mean, that has the ability to literally change the world, change lives. The life-giving care, your skill and expertise in your area of study plays a critical role in our society. Man, I can't think of a more important job.

Now, the way to change the world is through the individual responsibility that we take, taking local action in your community. And by doing so, you change the world one person at a time. I really, really respect and admire this decision that you've made to help other human beings. When you truly commit to something in life, you start receiving more than you could possibly imagine.

The idea of how everything is interconnected and the impermanence of things, that kind of sums up the human condition to me. And if you open your heart, then the object of your love, it becomes so precious because you're so open. And that philosophy, that can be contagious. Yeah. Some sort of positive virus. So with that said, don't forget to work hard, play hard or a word that I've devised, plork. Yeah. Plork hard, man. And be love, be joy, be kind and always abide. Congratulations, guys. You did it.

Unger: Please join me as we hear from Dr. David Satcher, our 16th U.S. Surgeon General and former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health, as well as Dr. Aletha Maybank, the AMA's very own chief health equity officer, for some important timely words related to health equity in our nation.

Dr. Satcher: Greetings. As you graduate today, I think it is fair to say that these are not the best of times. No, over the last three months, almost 300,000 people have died from COVID-19, 75,000 of them in the United States. These are not the best of times, but we have to be prepared even in the worst of times to move forward and to continue to contribute to making the world a better place.

In January 2000, I served as Surgeon General of the United States and Assistant Secretary for Health. It was in that capacity that I led the development of Healthy People 2010. And from that development, hopefully you remember, we made a commitment to the elimination of disparities in health. It was a solid goal, sincere. And yet we have not reached that goal. In no way has that become more apparent than in the last few months as we've struggled with COVID-19, this outbreak of a virus that has found all kinds of ways to outsmart us.

So today I challenge you that even in what may seem like the worst of times, you hold true to your commitment and to our commitment to eliminate disparities in health and to achieve health equity. You have worked hard to get to this day. Also, there are others who have worked hard, like your parents and your faculty. But there's still much work to do. And I hope today as you leave that you will care enough to get the job done, that you now know enough to move forward and to continue to learn, that you will have the courage to do what needs to be done, and finally, that you will persevere until the job is done. As you leave here today, Godspeed. And may you receive the blessings you're due.

Dr. Maybank: Hello and congratulations, class of 2020. To be a physician is a tremendous privilege not afforded to many. The privilege to enter people's lives who are absolute strangers in which they hand over their keys to vulnerability and trust, trust that you are going to always do the best that you can do to promote and protect their health and wellbeing. I remember the time of finishing medical school like it was yesterday, but clearly it was not. It was like 20 years ago. And it was the start of a new millennium. Dr. David Satcher, was the 16th Surgeon General at the time. And I remember him well as he launched Healthy People 2010 and, I heard this idea of eliminating health disparities for the first time. About a year after med school, we had a major deadly disaster that entered this country and in New York City. 9/11 forever altered how we view the world, and it changed our way of life.

Much in the way that COVID-19 has and will continue doing so. Dr. David Satcher's vision of eliminating inequities didn't happen in 2010. And COVID-19, our newest public health crisis, reminds us that these inequities, these injustices are ever present, they're entrenched, and are a result of generations of policies that structure discrimination into the very systems that are to make us whole, such as housing and transportation, education, employment and healthcare. And so over the coming months and years, the U.S. medical system will struggle to adapt to new post-pandemic norms. This new day calls upon all of you to know and understand what creates health more broadly beyond the halls and walls of the healthcare system, the hospitals and doctor's offices. And understand how larger political, historical, structural, social, and cultural contexts in which we all live impact our patient's health, your health and the health of your loved ones.

I truly believe you will need to embrace joining medical care and public health in ways that facilitate system building that aligns the two fields, instead of segregating them. You will have the opportunity to reimagine, dismantle, redesign and reconstruct the healthcare and public health system through a vision that reclaims a much broader understanding of health. It centers health, racial, and social justice, humanizes yourselves, affirms human rights and embraces joy. Health is political and the United States response to COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for medicine to have an explicit political voice. Doing so means that we are going to have to expand our public voice and partner with folks in traditional media, as well as in social media and other platforms. Health will also require our voices in the halls of Congress and in state and local and government offices. And we will need to use our voice by voting.

In 1970, the author James Baldwin wrote in an open letter to Angela Davis, a civil rights activist, who was jailed at the time at time, a time that was also viewed to be in absolute chaos. Since we live in an age in which silence is not only criminal, but suicidal, I have been making as much noise as I can. I truly look forward to the leadership of your class and generation. Many of you already been leading and using your voices to advocate for change, social justice, a better America, a better health system. And I just encourage you to continue doing so and to encourage your physician colleagues to do the same. So congratulations, and I hope you find some fun ways to enjoy this #COVID celebration time. Wishing you the best in life, congratulations again, and take care.

Dr. Walsh: Congratulations, medical school graduates.

Dr. Heine: Congratulations.

Dr. Knight: Congratulations, class of 2020.

Dr. Yap: Congratulations.

Dr. Koirala: I know that the end of medical school has been quite nontraditional for most of you, but I want you to remember that you earned the right to celebrate, that you've accomplished so much, and we are so, so excited to have you join our ranks as a physician in just a couple of short months.

Dr. Knight: You are entering a profession that offers you a unique opportunity to impact the lives of the patients in front of you, your community and communities around the world.

Dr. Dayal: Although you won't get to experience the usual fanfare of graduation, just know that you're needed more than ever before in our profession.

Dr. Walsh: I'm proud to call you doctors and colleagues. We need you.

Dr. Stanford:  I want to encourage you and tell you to keep up hope throughout all of this. Hope is essential.

Dr. Heine: Always be a patient advocate and do what you think is best for your patient.

Dr. Walsh: Hold on to your family, your friends and your dreams. Remember to stay engaged, ask questions, and speak up.

Dr. Yap: Know your rights and don't be afraid to speak up for yourself, your co-residents, and your patients.

Dr. Knight: Never miss an opportunity to utilize that impact in a positive way through research, advocacy or clinical care to change the lives of others.

Dr. Koirala: Remember it is in our medical ethics to seek change when there is injustice in the system. So we want you to not only become physicians, but also to become fierce physician advocates. You are current and future leaders, and the experiences that you are having now will drive you to change the world.

Dr. Stanford:  Congratulations to the class of 2020 medical graduates.

Dr. Knight: Congratulations, class of 2020.

Dr. Walsh: Good luck and godspeed.

Nelson: Hi, I'm Craig T Nelson. And to the thousands of medical school graduates across America, congratulations on finishing all the hard work. And as you enter into a world filled with complicated healthcare challenges affecting all Americans, I wanted to join the American Medical Association in saying thank you and good luck.

King: Class of 2020. You did it. Congratulations. So, so happy, so proud. I know that this is not the send off you envisioned, but there's something that I always say, find the beauty in the bruises. And you have a rare opportunity now to see the beauty or find the beauty while the bruise is actually being inflicted. That beauty is going to be different for every one of you. And that's what makes each one of you so special, that it is going to be different and it is going to be individual. The beauty for me in this moment is that I've got the opportunity to actually tell you, personally, thank you. Thank you for working hard. Thank you for having a dream to service the community, to service us. Now more than ever, we are reminded how important what you do, what you're about to do is and how we can't move forward or grow without you.

Dream big and don't allow this time to suffocate those dreams. Dream, not only as a physician, but dream like an artist because you are artists. And it's that artistry of the mind that exposes us to so many great things. The Charles Drew, people that have come before him that made discoveries, that's who you are. And I am grateful that I've got the opportunity to say thank you, to say move with your head up high, to take the time to celebrate yourself. You put in a lot of hard work, and it's just the beginning. That's what's so exciting is that it's just the beginning. But there are so many people out here that are indebted to the 30,000 plus men and women who have taken the time to get to this moment, this singular moment, this beginning of the next moment. And just shine on, shine bright, walk with grace, love hard, love strong.

Unger: Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Donald M. Berwick, president emeritus and senior fellow for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have a few thoughts to share with the medical school class of 2020.

Dr. Schuchat: Hello, I'm Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wherever you go as a physician, take public health with you. Prevent what you can, prepare for what may come, and respond when needed. Keep science and service close to your stethoscope and your heart.

Dr. Berwick: Hi, everybody. I'm Don Berwick, president emeritus and senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Boston, Massachusetts. And first, congratulations. As I was preparing for this chance to be with you, some words insistently came into my head the same way that a song sometimes does, a song that just won't go away.

It was the famous St. Crispin's Day speech from act four of Shakespeare's play, Henry IV. It's the eve of the battle of Agincourt in which the English, greatly outnumbered by the French are about to fight. And a soldier wishes out loud for more troops, but King Henry reproves him. He says how fortunate they are. "We few, we happy few, who get to be there." He says, "And gentlemen of England now abed shall think themselves accursed they were not here and hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin's Day."

This is a tough time. I think many of you were sad of course, about the opportunity that this virus has denied you to enjoy these final months of training together and the proper celebrations with your loved ones of your well-earned graduation day. You are all, much more importantly, also saddened by the vast suffering, especially for the poorest among us, that the pandemic has brought. The losses are immense, and the recovery will be long.

There is nothing pretty, there's nothing glorious about this global tragedy, but I want to ask you to notice something with me, please. Long before the coronavirus, something was growing amiss in the world of healthcare that you're entering now. Something has come off center. You are entering a calling that is by any measure, noble. Your fellow human beings will soon honor you with their generous trust and their trembling hope. They will bring to you some of the most frightening worries and the most secret burdens of their lives. They will tell you things they would tell to no one else. They will permit you to probe and to inquire as they would no one else. They will place their fates in your hands as they would no one else. This is wonderful.

But to be honest, slowly erosively, in recent years, that sacred encounter has been invaded, invaded by tones and by motives that do not help, they harm. Finance has displaced compassion too much. Technology has displaced relationship too much, too much has greed displaced generosity, opacity displaced openness, inequity displaced equity, and pace displaced patients. That may affect you. Dr. Simon Talbot and Wendy Dean have written eloquently about what they call, moral injury. Moral injury to doctors and nurses who want to help patients, but find themselves embedded into contexts that make that confusing and difficult.

Now we have coronavirus. It is the strongest reminder, it's the loudest call in decades about what really, really matters. It's a signal to every single one of you about the importance of your mission, the meaning of your calling, about true north. In its face, The threats to our purposes, they are revealed for the deceivers that they are. COVID-19, with its puny 15 genes, it commands us to connect to our deepest values, healing, caring, justice, equity, respect for each other and love for our work. That is your Agincourt, you few, you happy few.

This time has brought to you some short term losses that you will very soon forget, but it also brings to you duties and opportunities that you will never, ever forget. The time will come when you will tell the story of how together you joined your colleagues in difficult times to do what is important, which is simple, to help. People now abed will feel a tinge of envy that they were not here, while any speaks that joined this noble fight for survival, for healing and for boundless compassion. So thank you for who you are and thank you for what you will do.

Dr. Dunniway: Congratulations, class of 2020! We are so excited to welcome you as fellow physicians.

Dr. Yang: Congratulations doctors, you made it through medical school.

Dr. Kora: Congratulations, class of 2020! You impress us every day with your hard work and your dedication, especially during this tough times.

Dr. Jameson: Despite COVID-19 preventing the typical graduation ceremonies, I hope each of you are able to celebrate this important achievement in your own way.

Dr. Kora: The future of medicine is in excellent hands.

Dr. Dunniway: Always remember being a physician is a privilege.

Dr. Yang: As you begin your residencies, remember where you came from. Remember your community, remember why you chose medicine and why you chose your specialty.

Dr. Jameson: My advice to you is to keep an open mind and keep an innovative spirit.

Dr. Varshavski: Know that you will never have all the answers. Medical knowledge and science will change throughout your lifetime. The more you lean into this uncertainty and being okay with saying, "I don't know," the better you're going to fare.

Dr. Kora: Never stop listening, never stop learning and never stop advocating for yourself, your patients and your profession.

Dr. Yang: Look out for your medical students, teach them, feed them. When you become a senior, protect your juniors, because we need to take care of each other.

Dr. Jameson: So I want to wish you all the best of luck and welcome to the club.

Dr. Dunniway: Best wishes, can't wait to work with you.

Dr. Yang: Good luck. And I look forward to working with you soon.

Dr. Kora: Congratulations and have fun.

Goldwyn: Hey, it's Tony Goldwyn here, wishing you a huge congratulations on a very unconventional medical school graduation. The class of 2020 is being deprived for proper graduation and being thrown right into the fire, in the midst of this pandemic. We all know that this is going to form the foundation of what promises to be an incredible career. I want to thank you in advance for the life saving work you are going to be doing from day one. I have a few years left, so I'm grateful to what you're going to be doing for people like me, but in the meantime, get out there and dig deep and just know that you're deeply appreciated and already an inspiration to all of us. So congratulations, class of 2020!

Dr. Skochelak: The medical education team at the AMA offers our heartfelt congratulations to you, the graduating class of 2020. Be proud of all you've accomplished. We are proud for you. More than seven years ago, through our Accelerating Change in Medical Education consortium, the AMA set out to transform medical education. Now with nearly 50 UME and GME partners and $30 million of investment, we have done just that.

Dr. Lomis: But we couldn't have accomplished any of it without you, your dedication, your ideas, and most of all, your willingness to embrace change have helped to bring a new vision for medical education to reality. Importantly, your efforts will benefit all the students who follow in your footsteps and these qualities of flexibility and creativity will continue to serve you well as you embark on your own careers in medicine.

 Dr. Andrews: As you begin your residencies, you will carry on our profession's proud tradition of teaching one another. We'll continue to support you by re-imagining residency, innovating to meet the needs of your professional development and the needs of your patients. You're beginning your training at one of the most challenging times in our nation's history, but know that you are ready.

Dr. Skochelak: Know that we at the AMA will always have your back. As we continue to collaborate, innovate, and explore new ways to educate the next generation of physicians. As we wind down the celebration, this tribute to you and all your hard work, remember this, enjoy your day! Enjoy this time! You deserve it.

Group: Congratulations!

Unger: Medical school graduations are rich with traditions, perhaps none so symbolic as the reciting of the Hippocratic oath, often updated and rewritten to meet the changing times. This oath is a promise to patients, a promise these students make to the profession, and it's a promise they keep throughout their career.

Speaker 1: The Hippocratic oath is a sacred promise.

Speaker 2: To me the Hippocratic goes as a standard that we hold ourselves to that's ages old. It sort of gets to the fundamental nature of the patient and the physician relationship.

Speaker 3: It sets the ethical and moral standings of who we are as doctors, why we're physicians and what our goals and duties are.

Speaker 1: We will take care of our patients to the best of our ability.

Speaker 4: It comes to mind every time I find myself needing to sit down with a family or colleagues to figure out how do we make sure we're doing the right thing for a patient in front of us.

Dr. Harris: As a member of the medical profession, I solemnly pledge.

Dr. Fryhofer: I solemnly pledge.

Dr. Kobler: I solemnly pledge.

Dr. Ferguson: To dedicate my life.

Dr. Kridel: My life.

Dr. Mukkamala: My life.

Dr. Bailey: To dedicate my life to the service of humanity.

Dr. Scott: The health and wellbeing on my patient will be my first consideration.

Dr. McDade: I will respect the autonomy and dignity of my patients.

Dr. Mukkamala: I will maintain the utmost respect for human life.

Dr. McAneny: I will not permit considerations of age disease or disability—

Dr. Mukkamala: Creed, ethnic origin, gender—

Dr. Egbert: Nationality, political affiliation, race—

Dr. Fryhofer: Sexual orientation, social standing, or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient.

Dr. Underwood: I respect the secrets that are confided in me, even after the patient has died.

Dr. Ferguson: I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity and in accordance with good medical practice.

Dr. Kridel: I will foster the honor and noble traditions of the medical profession.

Dr. Suk: I will give to my teachers, colleagues and students the respect and gratitude that is their due.

Dr. Motta: I will share my medical knowledge to the benefit patient and the advancement of healthcare.

Dr. Ehrenfeld: I will attend to my own health, wellbeing, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard.

Dr. Resneck: I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights, civil liberties, even under threat.

Dr. Bailey: I make these promises solemnly.

Dr. McDade: Solemnly.

Dr. McAneny: Solemnly.

Dr. Bailey: Freely.

Dr. Ehrenfeld: Freely.

Dr. Underwood: Freely.

Dr. Kobler: And upon my honor.

Dr. Suk: And upon my honor.

Dr. Harris: And upon my honor.

Unger: As we come to the end of our AMA tribute to the medical school class of 2020, I'd like to thank you for sharing this moment with us and with each other. I hope that you enjoyed hearing advice from practicing physicians, from AMA leaders, from our nation's leaders. I also hope that you had a few laughs during this very stressful time.

Finally, we have one more treat for you, artist Zach Heckendorf has been making music since he was a teenager. He took a break from music to go back to college, and he just graduated from Columbia last year, his new album Hoc Talk will be released this fall. Please enjoy, Up, an optimistic anthem of resilience and hope that is appropriate for these times. On behalf of the American Medical Association, congratulations Class of 2020! We wish you well.

Table of Contents

  1. Featured participants
  2. Transcript