Keynote Address to Graduates of the AM Dogliotti College of Medicine

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Mr. President of the University of Liberia, the Vice Presidents, the Dean of AM Dogliotti College of Medicine, Other Deans and Chairpersons, Members of the Faculty, Officials of Government, the President of the Liberia Medical & Dental Association, the President of the Liberia Medical and Dental Council, Members of the Association and Council, the Adeo Maxima Generis Class of 2013, Members of the Press, Parents, Well wishers, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am humbled by the your gesture to accord me the unique privilege of giving the keynote address to a dynamic and progressing cadre of lieutenants in the vanguard of the advancement of the medical destiny of our forward-marching country. For this honor I owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

But, I have to tell you, to be up here in this role in the presence of some dynamic, young Alpha Phi Alpha men in this graduating class is a joy I wouldn't dare have dreamed up. Men who have clung to the philosophy "First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All".

As a staunch Pentecostal Christian, it is impossible not to acknowledge God Almighty for his eternal blessings and graciousness that we all may have life and have it more abundantly.

Today I am told that we will be witnessing the administration of the Hippocrates Oath to the largest post war graduate class in the history of the Medical School. Liberia celebrates this monumental achievement as it signifies the highlighting of a small step in reducing the Doctors-to-Patients Ratio which stands at over 1 doctor to more than 125 thousand patients.   A lot more will have to be done and many additional graduating classes, some even far larger than this one, before our country can get anywhere in cutting the chase to reducing this very pathetic ratio.

Some of my comments today are against the backdrop of a very unfortunate situation I experienced with great degree of pain and anguish while on an official trip to Nigeria in November. I witnessed firsthand the passing of one of our country's best and brightest upcoming financial experts, the late Deputy Governor for Economic Policy at the Central Bank, Theo Bettie.

Theo was a personality just entering the prime of his life. A very famous student leader of his time, the first standard bearer of the Student Integration Movement (SIM) as a student in the 80s. An intellectual par excellence.  A Yale University Graduate.  A Fulbright Scholar.  And critically, a key architect in Liberia's Emerging Monetary Policy Framework, affording access to finance for our working class. A man I was proud to call my friend. He passed away in Nigeria after suffering a massive stroke at age 50 while attending along with me the ECOWAS Central Banks Conference on Infrastructure Financing. 

Now let me recount for you my experience while in my moment of anguish. I had gone to the hospital to be at the bed side of my great friend and travel companion. My first stumbling block was "No visitors allowed". In my usual fiery manner of getting my way done I retorted to the hospital staff, I am not a visitor. I am his next thing to family here in Nigeria. I must update the Government of Liberia, and his very concerned wife on his condition and I am also his travel companion on this trip. The answer was, "No sir we cannot allow you to see him". I was desperate to hold his hand and pray with him, and reassure him that God was in control. Well as necessity is the mother of invention, a couple of high phone calls were made to strategic personalities at the Central Bank of Nigeria and I was ushered in to see him. But before ushering me in they did something interesting which in all honesty and patriotism to my Liberian Background I have not seen much in similar situations here. They sat me down before seeing him and spent about 5 minutes counseling me and encouraging me, I guess to build up my emotional reserve for the difficult sight I was about to see. Now when the CBL Administrative Manager arrived in Nigeria the next day, I decided to sit him down and administer the same psychological medicine to him before we once again got family – Not Friend or Next of Kin. I could not help but take note of the power and privilege that characterize our respective areas of profession.   

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. 

Your oath today writes a new chapter in your professional lives and ensures that you sign a new contract with Society. I trust that you will rise to this challenge and discharge the herculean responsibilities that will accompany the challenge. I trust that you will take the high road to nobility with morality and professionalism. Our country is already plagued with many problems. Please see yourself as a small piece of the solution. I am confident that the Medical Field like any other profession goes through its ups and downs. It highs and lows. Its celebrations of success and joy and its moments of despair and apparent hopelessness.

In Liberia, the medical profession is not an avenue to riches. It is one of the ultimate calls to service. We perfectly understand the expectations that one anticipates after nine years of continuously keeping one's head in books. It is pay-up time but here is the irony: in our country sometimes the take home pay cannot take you home considering all your expectations.

Our Authorities must do much more to advance the cause of a healthy nation. I must though recognize now that a lot has been done in this area in the last seven years. Nothing should stop us from attaining the enviable position as being one of West Africa Referral Destinations for superlative medical treatment as it was in the late seventies and eighties. Yes, nothing should stop us from achieving the dream of celebrating open heart surgeries, transplants, neuro surgeries and other sophisticated applications of advances made in the medical field the world over.

That is why in late 2005 and early 2006, the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment took the bold initiative to sponsor the renovation of one of the medical dormitories under the bank's Western Union marketing program. The Bank renews its pledge to you the Authorities of the Medical School and yea the University that innovative ways can be employed in meeting the expectations and obligations to our medical practitioners-in-training and the medical staffers who are already employed in the industry. Towards this end, let me throw out some food for thought and you can let me know perspectives in the days to come. Is there anything wrong with working with the health Ministry to ensure proper and adequately reflective Doctors and Nurses Residential Quarters as part of creating the enabling environment for provision of quality health services for our people? Is there anything wrong with ensuring that our Health Care Delivery Providers Benefit from Mortgage or Consumer Loans to improve their wellbeing and increase their productivity?  I am not sure any of the soon-to-be doctors here relish the situation of riding pem-pems to work in the hustle and bustle of our motor vehicle traffic. I am confident that we can make the medical industry a destination for attraction and preference if we could just do some more in terms of improving the privileges of the workers in the field.

Towards this end we are gratified about the news of the establishment of a post graduate medical school. I was very pleased to have attended the Ministry of Information Press Conference which was well articulated by Dr. Steve Kennedy. I wish the Liberia Medical and Dental Association well in this endeavor.  I believe that the idea cannot be allowed to fail and all must be done to ensure that it kicks off with a strong start.

To the University of Liberia, I cannot but add my voice to no doubt many others before me in congratulating you on the occasion of yet any graduation exercise. I must confess that I did not think it possible to be done especially with the recent difficulties which led to closure of school for a couple of weeks. It clearly signifies that you have come of age and are now fully multi dimensional in the discharge of your duties. 

Again let me congratulate you the new doctors for your exemplary and scholarly accomplishments; you the parents, well wishers and significant others for your prayers, support, love, and moral support which have played no small part in the accomplishment of this great achievement.

My congratulations no doubt extends to the University of Liberia and the Medical School for keeping the light forever burning to extinguish the darkness of retrogression and intellectual stagnation. Lastly, I thank our Government for its support and direction in driving an agenda of progress in the health sector.

Thank you everyone and congratulations.

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