“And now, my dear graduates, as I conclude, I leave you an important message, one that I urge you to remember.
Each one of you is uniquely capable of providing for others. Wherever individual skills may lead you, all of you are now part of the large family of caregivers. To become entangled in the political and economic muck that plagues the medical profession today can dim the burning desire that led you to follow your dream. I am hopeful that most of you will find sustenance in medicine’s wonders and will support its growth into the future. Do not ignore the complexities of our time; instead, allow your test of life to sustain and inform your personal role in medicine. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, ”Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Dr. Amelia Lattimore stepped from behind the podium. The applause that echoed from the walls of the University of Chicago chapel filled her with a sense of pride. More than twenty years earlier she had been sitting in a pew in this very chapel and, along with fellow medical school graduates, had listened as an Illinois state senator regaled them with stories of his conquests in the political arena. She could not then envision herself ever returning to address eager students, their families, the faculty, and others who had gathered in this traditional site for accolades.
Amelia shook hands with the Dean of Students, a gangly, affable fellow named Harold Hakes, before taking her place on the stage, standing to greet each new graduate and taking her part in the handshaking and congratulations. After the ceremony was over, those who wished to have a picture taken with her or who wanted her autograph surrounded Amelia. She posed and wrote until she satisfied everyone who had clamored for her attention.
Groups of families and friends huddled together on the sidewalks and lawns as Amelia stepped out into the brilliant sunshine. Cameras flashed everywhere; people exchanged hugs and kisses; high heels clicked on cement; congratulations filled the air.
She walked the short distance to behind the chapel where she had parked her car, removed her cap and gown, and put them on the back seat. She then closed the back door, climbed into the front seat, pulled out of the parking lot, and headed down the street. She glanced in the rearview mirror to check her make-up before heading for the reception at the faculty club. But, for a second, eerily and briefly, the face she saw was not that of a veteran physician with a twenty-five plus year career who had just delivered the graduation address at her own alma mater. The faded complexion, dimming eyes, and graying hair gave way to the image of a young woman whose blue eyes outshone the brilliance of the sky above, in whose inquisitive mind the love of medicine had recently gained a permanent berth. She looked ahead at the road and then back to the mirror again. Behind her, she noticed a group of teenagers in a convertible. Another blink of the eyes and there she was, Amelia Lattimore. Only this time, it was the Amy of long ago, on another sparkling Midwest summer day when she was with her friends on the way to Lake Michigan.