Medical school speaker says ignore ‘the doom and gloom about the future of health care’

Katie Causey | Hatchet Photographer
Kurt Newman, president and CEO of Children’s National Medical Center, sent graduates off in the hopes of inspiring them to become innovators in health care. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer
This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Rachael Gerendasy

The president of a D.C. pediatric hospital spoke to graduates of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences as they became doctors Sunday.

Kurt Newman, who is also the chief executive officer of Children’s National Medical Center, has more than 30 years of experience as a surgeon. Here are the four top takeaways from his speech:

1. This is a time for optimism

The Affordable Care Act aside, Newman said doctors in the Class of 2014 should stay positive. He cited GW’s healing clinic as an example of innovative ideas in medicine right now.

“Despite some of the headlines that you may see, which focus on the doom and gloom about the future of health care, the commitment and dedication to learning medicine seems to be, to me, at an all time high,” Newman said.

Newman spoke about the effects of this perspective both globally, “from emergency medicine in Asia to cancer patients in the Middle East”, and across D.C.

“As I’ve visited our inner-city clinics, whether it’s in Anacostia or Prince George County, where the children face very difficult challenges, the the medical students and residents I see working at these places are fired up,” he said.

2. When there is change, there is opportunity.

Newman also asked students to improve the system.

“When the dust is up, like it is now, people’s minds are open and creativity and innovation can come to a core,” he said. “That scares some people, people who would rather things stay the same way.”

3. Be open to serendipity

Newman, who received his undergraduate degree in political science, once hoped to pursue a career in politics until a summer job sparked his interest in medicine. He said he had always thought he would want to be president some day, but now knows he was meant to lead a hospital.

In his third year of medical school at Duke University, Newman was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He said his struggle with cancer made him strive more urgently to be a doctor.

“The opportunity it gave me to see the way surgeons could take care of people, could take care of a problem, could cure my own situation, really changed my whole career and my whole life,” he said.

4. View challenges as opportunities

Newman said he has experienced failure many times. He was passed over for jobs and grants, as well as had patients not “do as well as I thought.”

He said the ability to harness insecurities is essential to do good.

“Know that the things that you have learned here at GW will carry you through that adversity,” Newman said. “Try to see the failures as fuel to further ignite your passions in science and medicine. Patients do not put their trust in machines, they do not put their trust in devices. They put their trust in you.”

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