This speech was given on April 30, 2011 by Dr. Tiffany Massey, the 2011 Commencement Ceremony Alumni Speaker:
Thank you for the opportunity to be here today and share a few words of encouragement with you. I was sitting exactly where you are right now, only one year ago, so I know the excitement and nervousness that comes when finally graduating from medical school. My road to medical school began as I worked as an occupational therapist at a large rehab hospital. I knew after many years that I enjoyed the difference that I was making in my patients’ lives, but I still wanted something bigger. I prioritized my two goals. Number one was to become a mother. Number two was to become a doctor. My first goal did not come as easily as planned. My husband and I tried for over eight years to get pregnant with no success. We exhausted specialists and multiple procedures with no luck. I came to the realization that this goal was not meant to be. My distraction from this emotional rollercoaster became my pursuit towards medicine. I realized, at age 30, that if I ever wanted to become a doctor, now was the time. I continued to work full-time as a therapist, take prerequisite courses and study for the MCAT like so many of you probably had to do as well. I mailed out my applications and anxiously awaited to hear a response… one by one they came… all rejections. It was shocking for me to see yet another dream of mine slipping away. My husband and I took a cruise shortly after this to clear our heads and relax to the Cayman Islands. We were on a tour bus when we passed St. Matthew’s University. I started tossing the idea around of going to a Caribbean medical school. Could I move that far away from my family? Would I get in? Would I be able to get a residency in the U.S.? I got back home and filled out my application, deciding not to give up on my dreams. Shortly after that, I got, what we all have anxiously awaited before – my first acceptance letter. I must stop right now and thank those at St. Matthew’s that believed in me and gave me an opportunity to fulfill my dreams. I knew from this point on, my life was about to begin. Fast forward a few semesters to life in Grand Cayman… the beautiful beaches, the laid back atmosphere, will never be forgotten. Medical school was intense but at the same time so amazing to truly learn about the human body. I was about to finish my fourth semester and head to Miami for a fifth semester Kaplan course when I got some unexpected news. My white shirt and khaki pants were fitting snuggly. I assumed it was from too many trips to Coconut Joes and Calico Jacks, but to my amazement, I was pregnant! After everything that we had gone through before that never worked, I had managed to get pregnant on my own. My husband and I were thrilled, shocked and of course terrified all at the same time.
Fast forward again through USMLE steps one and two, and clinicals all over the United States – I felt that I lived out of a suitcase during that time. Trying to figure out what was blue or green drove me crazy as I am sure it did you all too! I was working long hours and studying and hurrying home to my baby girl, when I found out that I had another baby on the way. More shock, more excitement, more boards, and more clinicals – and the search for residency began. We go through so much to accomplish this goal to become a physician. Before I knew it, I was sitting where you are today. My parents were the crazy ones taking 10,000 pictures. My two children were the screaming babies that had to be taken out. My husband was the man that stood smiling at me as I walked across the stage because he was so proud. Enjoy this time. You have all accomplished so much, and your family is so proud of you for this.
I started residency last year in Family Medicine at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. It has been a fast-paced, scary, yet exciting time where I have learned so much more than I ever thought imaginable. I felt so prepared having received the education that I did from St. Matthew’s. I wanted to share some advice with you today as new graduates that will help you succeed as you start your careers. I call this my Top 10 List to Success as a New Physician:
I hope that these tips help many of you as you begin this next phase in your career. I challenge many of you to think backwards. Jump to the end of your medical career in your imagination. What type of physician do you want to be remembered as by your family, coworkers and patients? How would these people describe you? Were you dedicated, balanced, compassionate and a team player? Start from the very beginning to define your life as a physician. I hope these tips help you succeed in your endeavors. Again, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today. Congratulations on your graduation! Go make us all proud!