“This is a very special day, perhaps the greatest day in your lives,” VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin told graduates of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine on Saturday as he delivered the Honors Day address. “You’ve worked very hard to get here, not just in the past four years, but for many years before that.”
The University of Cincinnati (UC) is one of VA’s academic affiliate colleges, where students and physicians have the opportunity to work with Veterans at the local VA medical center. “In the past academic year, 40 fourth-year and 144 third-year students completed clinical rotations at the VA medical center, in internal medicine, neuroscience, psychiatry, surgery and primary care,” Shulkin told the audience. Seventy-five UC physicians also practice at the Cincinnati VA, and bring their clinical and academic expertise to a number of specialties, including: electrophysiology, interventional cardiology, interventional pulmonary, pulmonary hypertension, advance gastrointestinal endoscopy, surgical dermatology and radiation oncology.
“It’s safe to say without UC and our other academic partners, VA could not accomplish the sacred mission of caring for those who have, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “borne the battle,” Shulkin said.
Shulkin encouraged the students at the beginning of their medical careers to live with purpose — to “tell people who you are and tell them your journey.”
“There has been nothing more meaningful to me in my career than to give back,” Shulkin said. “I’ve experienced walking the streets at midnight in Los Angeles, helping take homeless Veterans off the street. I’ve helped Veterans with spinal cord injuries, who are blind, or have bilateral leg amputations ski down mountains or surf in the ocean for the first time, and I’ve cheered on wheelchair champions as they’ve played competitive rugby and basketball fighting for their country — this time in wounded warrior Olympics.”
Shulkin explained how his work as a physician and as secretary is inspired by those with both visible and invisible wounds, such as traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress, who have the courage to fight on and overcome overwhelming obstacles. “These men and women,” he explained, “have given so much more to me than I could ever hope to give back.”
“When you look for the right time in your live for giving back, and in giving one’s self to public service,” Shulkin concluded, “if you ask me when is a right time to step up — my answer is now. Now is the time for you to consider how you can make a difference.”