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Eryl Fraser isn't sure what led her into healthcare. After she graduated from the University of Toronto in 2011 with an Honours Bachelor of Science degree specializing in biology with a minor in English, she says she found herself in Michener's Medical Laboratory Science program thanks to an interest in medical testing and, as much as anything else, luck.
Although hers was a gradual process to finding what she knew would eventually become her calling, in her valedictory address to Michener's 2016 graduating class, she said no matter what brought her classmates to Michener, they all stayed for the same reason: "Because what we do matters."
"In our careers, we will be witnesses to both tragedies and miracles," Eryl said in the address. "We will see people on their worst days of their lives, and if we're lucky we'll help make them a little better."
Surrounded by friends, family, faculty and staff from Michener and University Health Network (UHN), Eryl was one of 260 students to graduate from The Michener Institute on Saturday. It was the first graduation ceremony since Michener integrated with UHN in January, and was marked by reflections on the vast changes to health care brought on by technology and innovation, and the elements that will always remain the same.
"We can perform brain surgery in a single day as an outpatient procedure," remarked Dr. Brian Hodges, Executive Vice-President Education at UHN, to graduates and their families. "We have the most powerful array of diagnostic and laboratory technologies human civilization has ever known.
"But there is no technology as powerful as what happens when another person puts their hands on yours, looks into your eyes and asks, 'How are you?'"
Michener's graduates will enter professions that specialize in performing diagnostic tests and carrying out interventions that help save lives. Throughout their careers, many of them will closely interact with patients at their most vulnerable on a daily basis.
"It's a privilege to enter a profession centred around one human being caring for another," said Dr. Peter Pisters, President and CEO of UHN, congratulating the graduating class. "It's a unique thing that binds us together as healthcare professionals."
As healthcare changes, as technologies evolve and as Michener and UHN's integration transforms healthcare education, graduates, family and friends were reminded of a simple truth: compassionate, patient-centred care is the root of health care.
"You have an amazing capacity to change people's lives"
Among the speakers and distinguished guests was keynote speaker Judith John, a passionate patient advocate and patient advisor for UHN's Partners in Care program. A former hospital executive and a patient, Judith's journey and insights have served to transform UHN's approach to patient-centred care.
Judith has what she says medical staff calls "lived experience." She is a cancer survivor now living with a benign brain tumour and chronic pain. More recently, she supported her husband's experience with cancer. A self-professed expert in the patient experience, she reminded graduates that the most important principle of health care is patient care.
"You have an amazing capacity to change people's lives," Judith said to graduates. "They won't remember your name, what you did or what you said.
"But they will always remember how you made them feel."
In the keynote address, Judith recounted her many experiences going in and out of hospitals while being treated for cancer. She recounted both her profoundly positive and occasionally negative experiences with an array of hospital staff, including doctors, nurses, therapists, technologists and administrative staff, noting that the thread that ran through all of her most affirmative and encouraging experiences as a patient was simply being treated as a person.
"What the patient wants is very simple; they want to be treated with dignity and respect," Judith said. She advised graduates, "for the skills you've learned, the technology you've mastered and the experience you've received, match that with your own sense of humanity."
In a final congratulation to the graduating class, UHN Education Committee Chair Cliff Nordal echoed this sentiment: "Never forget that it's not the technology they trust," he said. "It's you."
As the Class of 2016 goes on to careers in laboratory or imaging technology, primary or critical care or diagnostic testing, this year's graduation ceremony was a reminder that as technology continues to change and evolve, the human side of health care will always remain a constant.