What every health care professional should hear

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“You see, today you take a big step into power. With your white coat and your Latin, with your anatomy lessons and your stethoscope, you enter today a life of new and vast privilege.

You may not notice your power at first. You will not always feel powerful or privileged – not when you are filling out endless billing forms and swallowing requirements and struggling through hard days of too many tasks.

But this will be true: In return for your years of learning and your dedication to a life of service and your willingness to take an oath to that duty, society will give you access and rights that it gives to no one else.

Society will allow you to hear secrets from frightened human beings that they are too scared to tell anyone else. Society will permit you to use drugs and instruments that can do great harm as well as great good, and that in the hands of others would be weapons.

Society will give you special titles and spaces of privilege, as if you were priests. Society will let you build walls and write rules. …

In the moment, it is all about choice. You have a magical opportunity. You have the opportunity to decide. Yes, you can read the rule book; and someday you can even write the rule book.”

This comes from a 2010 graduation speech given by Don Berwick at Yale.

If you didn’t graduate from Yale medical school in 2010, you can always see Don Berwick this Thursday.  We’re hosting him both in Portland and in Seattle.