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Vivek Murthy on the “Vision and Values” of Medicine


Vivek Murthy

Vivek Murthy

Photograph by Steve Lipofsky/Courtesy of Harvard Medical School

Vivek Murthy ’98, this year’s student choice as the Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) Class Day speaker, urged the 160 HMS students and 36 HSDM students who graduated today to find and stand up for their unique vision and values. “[Finding your vision] requires never ever settling for someone else’s path,” he said, encouraging the new doctors explore new ideas and to seek fulfillment in their professional choices.

Murthy invited the class of 2014 to let patients inspire their vision. “The humanity of our patients lies at the core of everything we do as doctors,” he noted. “It is bigger and more important than everything else.” Later, he highlighted the importance of courage in the medical profession. “We’re capable of far more than we can imagine, especially when we are fighting for a vision and for values that we deeply believe in,” he said. The Class Day speaker then challenged the graduating students to play a leadership role in “fixing” the healthcare system. “We, all of us, can no longer remain within the exam rooms and ignore what is happening in our communities,” Murthy added. “We must have a presence in both places.”

A physician at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor at HMS, Murthy received a medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine in 2003, and a master’s in business and administration from Yale School of Management in the same year. In 1995, Murthy (then just beginning his undergraduate education) and his sister founded Visions Worldwide, Inc., a nonprofit organization that focuses on AIDS education. Murthy is also the co-founder of Doctors for America, a national movement of physicians and medical students whose mission is to expand access to accessible healthcare, and of Trial Networks, a platform that aims to improve the quality and efficiency of clinical operations. (Read Harvard Magazine’s profile here.)

Murthy’s recent nomination as Surgeon General has been opposed by congressional conservatives and the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has expressed concerns about the nominee’s “ability to objectively examine issues pertinent to America’s 100 million gun owners and the likelihood he would use the office of the Surgeon General to further his pre-existing campaign against gun ownership.” In 2012, Murthy publicly stated that guns are a health issue. Facing a possible defeat in the Senate, the White House has delayed the vote on Murthy’s nomination. At the HSDM and HMS Class Day ceremony, some guests and members of the audience wore red stickers reading “Harvard Stands with Vivek.” (For Michael Bloomberg's remarks on the congressional opposition to the nomination, see this report on his remarks at today's afternoon program.)

During the event, HMS co-moderators Kelley Humbert and Roshan Sethi and HSDM co-moderator Tien Ha-Ngoc, also members of the graduating class, presented outstanding professors and instructors with the Faculty Teaching Awards. They also introduced HSDM student speaker Anuj Camanocha and HMS student speakers Norman Gayle Seay and Kristina Williams, who reflected upon the notions of failure and success in the context of their experiences as medical students.

In conferring the degrees, HSDM dean Bruce Donoff encouraged the graduating class “to be supporters of greater access to care” both at home and abroad, while HMS dean Jeffrey Flier, after taking a “selfie” with the graduating class, spoke about the importance of the “spirit of community” both at the school and in the medical profession. He also recalled the experience of the Boston marathon bombings as one that strengthened the sense of community among the graduating class.


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