The 2023 graduating class of medical students spent years training during some of the most tumultuous times in modern American health care. It’s no surprise, then, that an AMA event to honor the group brought out some of the biggest names in the medical profession.
Hosted by Mike Varshavski, DO, who helps set the record straight on medical and health topics for more than 25 million followers across YouTube and other social media, the AMA Tribute to the Medical School Class of 2023 gathered a star-studded crew of physicians to offer wisdom, encouragement and even humor for the newest batch of 20,000-plus physicians who will begin their residency training in July. This uplifting event was part of the AMA’s commitment to supporting medical students today and protecting their future.
“The same qualities that helped you through medical school in a time of historic uncertainty are the qualities that you will lean on for the remainder of your journey,” said Jack Resneck Jr., MD, AMA president and a professor and chair of the dermatology department at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. “You got this, and you have a multitude of supporters and allies in your corner, cheering you on every step of the way.”
No physician was as prominent in America’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic than Anthony Fauci, MD, who recently retired from his roles as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president. His role in guiding America during the darkest days of the early COVID-19 pandemic earned him the nickname “explainer-in-chief.”
Dr. Fauci, 57 years removed from his own medical school graduation, told medical students attending the AMA event about the at-times chaotic experiences the graduating cohort of medical students confronted during their time in training—and how they can grow from them.
“Elements of your experiences differed substantially from mine. And although they were at times painful and disruptive, in some ways you are better off for them. During almost your entire medical school experience, you have witnessed and bravely and effectively functioned through one of the most devastating pandemics in recorded history. The cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic under which to some extent we continue to live has disrupted your educational experiences in profoundly unique and unprecedented ways.
“The fact that you successfully navigated each hurdle the pandemic has put in your way just to get to where you are today is a testimony to your resilience, your resolve and your strength of character,” said Dr. Fauci. “You deserve enormous respect for your adaptability in completing your studies and graduating amidst immense difficulties and uncertainties.”
Medical students across the spectrum of training were on the front lines as both clinicians and innovators during the pandemic. Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, who will step down June 30 as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, touted the work medical students did to help in the fight against COVID-19.
“Already, you have shown how you live our professions values every single day. I’ve seen how you were quick to lean into preventing the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Walensky said. “You staffed testing and vaccination clinics, made home visits, built and managed quarantine centers and served as community support in so many ways for so many people in need, especially people in communities that were under resourced and people who could not advocate for themselves.”
A career as a physician can be viewed a public service. That sentiment was echoed throughout the AMA Tribute to the Medical School Class of 2023, which included comments from physicians who have seen their career in medicine intersect with roles in government and public health.
“How you apply your education will help define the health and quality of life of our nation,” said Adm. Rachel Levine, MD, assistant secretary of health in the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Our society will call on you again and again to help answer some of the biggest questions of our lifetimes,” she said. “Whether you go on to offer clinical medical services directly to those in need or work in public policy or conduct medical research, you’ll carry what you’ve learned with you for the rest of your life.”
The AMA tribute also featured advice from those with boots on the ground during residency. That advice included urging students to cultivate their curiosity, practice self-care and treat patients like family members.
“You are embarking on a busy time as you head into residency,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, MD, MAS, editor-in-chief of JAMA® and JAMA Network. “Use that time to ask some questions about the things around you, about how we practice medicine, about why we do things for patients. Hopefully, some of you will translate that curiosity into thinking about doing research and combining that with your practice of medicine.”
Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD, chair of the AMA Board of Trustees and former president of the American College of Physicians, stressed the importance of a support network.
“A graduation is a milestone achievement and nobody gets there by themselves,” she said. “We rely on friends, family, parents, professors, mentors, spouses, partners and all of those people who have enriched our loves with their love and encouragement.
“Like medical school, nobody gets through residency without love and support from those around them, and without the support of organizations like the American Medical Association, which is here for you through every success and setback and all the ups and downs that come with this journey. The AMA is your powerful ally in patient care.”
As you head into residency training, subscribe to the AMA Thriving in Residency series for guidance and resources on navigating the fast-paced demands of training, maintaining health and well-being, handling medical student-loan debt, and other essential tips about succeeding in graduate medical training.