The Last Lecture

Every year, graduating students at Eastern Virginia Medical School select faculty to present their last lecture of medical school. It’s an incredible honor to be selected.

Heretofore, EVMS students have had the good sense to choose more eminent professors to give their Last Lecture – but the Class of 2020 chose me.

Of course, thanks to COVID-19, all lectures – last and otherwise – were cancelled. So I had to give this one via YouTube.

The lecture is very specifically intended for the EVMS Class of 2020 – but others may appreciate the point I’m getting at. So for anyone interested, here’s the video.

The Last Lecture.

(Running time: 14 minutes)

  • As always, my opinions are just that. They do not necessarily reflect those of EVMS. They speak for themselves, and I do, too.
  • Though I’d reflected on this particular teaching moment many times over the years, I didn’t speak about it publicly until last fall, after I read this piece in JAMA. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.
  • I first told the story on Twitter, which led to a nice postscript that I didn’t mention in the lecture. I had always assumed that my senior resident wouldn’t even remember the moment I described. But, an hour or so after I the thread on Twitter, I got a call from him. (It was the first time we’d spoken in over a decade – and the remarkable thing is, he isn’t even on Twitter.) But he did remember.
  • I used a quote from “This is Water,” the commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College in 2005. If you’re not familiar with it, please take a moment to check out the transcript or audio online. The heartbreaking irony, of course, is that Wallace committed suicide in 2008. I don’t think that diminishes the value of his advice in the least. Rather, it makes it all the more poignant.
  • Finally, for anyone who was disappointed that we didn’t discuss the anion gap, here’s my old handout on acid-based disorders.

The Lecture That Never Got to Be

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