It’s the time of year when thousands of newly minted college graduates are looking ahead to what’s next. In healthcare, that could mean starting a first job in the field, pursuing research or heading to medical school, among other options.
What advice would someone with decades of experience in the field give to the newcomers?
In the June 19 issue, we profiled the 50 most influential clinical executives, as voted on by readers and selected by newsroom leadership. Many of the honorees trained as nurses and doctors before the universal adoption of electronic health records, the advent of remote patient monitoring and the excitement over artificial intelligence.
Today they are leading organizations; overseeing vast healthcare systems and companies; plotting expansions; focusing attention on public health and vulnerable populations; integrating merged companies and systems; interpreting regulations; and testifying before Congress on critical issues.
I’d wager many of them had no such grand plans when they were new to the field and working on their bedside manner. Over time, as they took on and conquered challenges, their interests became more defined, their ambitions greater, their networks wider.
This year’s graduates have already faced two challenges our honorees could not have foreseen: the COVID-19 pandemic and the politicization of healthcare. Maybe those will help prepare them for future hurdles.
Now about that advice.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who recently retired after 38 years as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health and was medical adviser to seven U.S. presidents, was a popular speaker at medical school commencements this spring.
He congratulated graduates on persevering during the public health emergency and discussed the unique training opportunity it provided. Fauci told them that if his own career path had been linear when he graduated from medical school, today he’d be in private practice in New York City.
He also stressed the need to trust science and to fight against misinformation. And he focused on the importance of the human element in healthcare, a good reminder to newcomers and veterans alike.
“In our modern world of technology, a CT scan does not care for your patient,” Fauci told graduates of Washington University’s medical school. “Robotics does not care for your patient. A.I. does not care for your patient. You and your humanity are the keys to optimal patient care.”