|Geneticist Francis Collins offered four pieces of advice to Medical School graduates earlier this month. Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services|
But there was something unusual about the Class of 2000something that set it apart from any other graduating class in the Medical Schools 150-year history. They left behind a special class gift.
In appreciation for their medical education and to provide scholarships for future first-year medical students, they pooled individual contributions and money from fund-raising activities to create the Class of 2000 Endowment.
Debt-ridden medical students just starting careers dont have a lot to give, but the class plans future contributions and the endowments value will appreciate over time.
For students who face their own financial challenges, it is a significant gift and we are extremely proud of them, says Mike DeBrincat, the Medical Schools alumni director. Most classes dont consider something like this until they have been working for at least five to 10 years.
No other class has established an endowment coincident with their graduation, Dean Allen S. Lichter told the graduates and audience in Hill Auditorium. Over time, the endowment will turn out to be the largest in the schools history and could eventually benefit every U-M medical student. You are an inspiration to all of us.
A special class deserves a memorable commencement speaker and the Class of 2000 was not disappointed.
Francis S. Collins, on leave from the Medical School to direct the National Human Genome Research Institute in Washington, D.C., told the graduates that they had something in common with the soon-to-be-completed Human Genome Project. We are both at the end of the beginning, he said. Its time to stop and savor what you have achieved and look forward to your full potential.
Although he described commencement address wisdom as having a half-life of milliseconds, Collins did have some words of advice for members of the Class of 2000.
First, he urged them to seek a balanced life. Medicine can be demanding, he said. Do not allow the pressures of your profession to crowd out the rest of your life.
Second, he urged the graduates not to neglect their spiritual life and to reject the idea that belief in God is incompatible with science or the intellect. Dont wait for a spiritual crisis to deal with a lack of faith in your life, he said.
Third, Collins stressed the importance of love for one another, especially a life partner. Medicine places romantic relationships at risk, he warned. Make it a priority.
Last, and most important, is fun. Dont forget to exercise your sense of humor, because you are going to need it, Collins warned. Pulling out a guitar, Collins closed his commencement address to the Class of 2000 with a song thats all about you and a great University, loosely based on Frank Sinatras I Did It My Way.
I came, I bought the books, learned to draw blood, followed directions
I worked, I studied hard, made lots of friends that had connections
I crammed, they gave me grades, and may I say not in a fair way
But more, much more than this, I did it their way.
I learned so many things, although I know Ill never use them
The courses that I took were all required, I didnt choose them
Youll find that to survive its best to play the doctrinaire way
And so I knuckled down, and did it their way.
Yes there were times I wondered why
I had to cringe when I could fly
I had my doubts but after all
I clipped my wings and learned to crawl
I learned to bend and in the end
I did it their way.
And now, my fine young friends, now that I am a full professor
Where once I was oppressed, I have now become the cruel oppressor
With me I hope youll see the double helix is a highway
And yes, youll learn its best to do it my way.
Im just a man, what can I do?
Open your books, read chapter two
And if it seems a bit routine
Dont talk to me, go see the Dean
Just start today, love DNA,
And do it my way.
© Francis S. Collins