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Match Day

 , March 15, 2019

As the Associate Dean for Curricular Affairs, I was asked to say a few words to the senior class of medical students a few mniutes before they opened their envelopes to find out where they had matched.  The large auditorium was packed with the students, their family members and friends and faculty who had been their advisers and mentors for the past few years. The white envelopes were lined up on serveral tables covered with black tablecloths in the front of the room.  The hall was festooned with balloons and ribbons. Several large monitors were counting down the time to 12:00 Noon EST.  Many cameras were capturing every moment from every perspective. The event was being livestreamed for those who could not attend in person. The tension in the hall was palpable, filled with a low hum of nervous chatter.

The medical school leardership team had 30 minutes to say a few words before the mad rush for the tables when the clock struck 12:00.  For the students it would be the most challenging exercise in mindfulness to focus on these words while their minds would keep wandering to how their life journey would take a most significant step in a few mnutes. Each Dean got 1-2 minutes to speak.

So what can you tell anyone in such a setting?  What do you tell someone who has set their eyes on this moment as an ultimate prize?  Is this the time to even begin to suggest that what they might think of as the most important thing in their lives is not that important after all?  

So here is what I ended up saying:

"As you focus on that envelope lying a few feet away, I hope you remember that what is inside you is far more important than what is inside that envelope.  You have spent a lifetime acquiring and building your character, integrity, caring and respect for others, empathy and resilience.  Nurturing and building upon these qualities is far more important thant where you will work for the next few years.

The main purpose of life is to be happy.  Happiness has almost nothing to do with getting what you think you want or need, and everything to do with being grateful for who you have.  Like being grateful for all the family, friends, teachers and well-wishers who have rooted for you all your life.  Being happy is doing something good for others.  If you are ever sad, find something good and meaningful that you can do for someone in need and you will feel better.  In a way, that is your job for the rest of your life as a physician, an you get paid to do this everyday!

Happiness is knowng that this was the last time that someone will judge you and make a decision about you by distilling you worth down to a 3-digit score.

So go forth and be happy!"

Neil Mehta, MBBS, 
Associate Dean for Curricular Affairs
Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University