Advice for Graduates

The following is a guest post from my father, Professor Floyd Brandt.

At the time I decided to retire, I experienced two thoughts: First, I had been in a footrace for several years between retirement and obsolescence. The second thought was the closing line from Stephen Sondheim’s song Send in the Clowns — “Isn’t it rich, isn’t it queer, losing my timing so late my career.” Given the issue of obsolescence, I declared that my retirement was a trip from doing to being and then discovered that being is as challenging as doing, and often more so—learning to pause, meditate, and seek the joys of solitude requires new thoughts and habits.

Many, if not most, professors are inclined to think about what they would say in their Last Lecture and some even write it for the millions who will never read it and for students who will never remember it. My final lecture to my graduate classes could be divided into the pragmatic and the personal—I have included the pragmatic here:

After graduation, be your own professor. Keep asking questions. The quality of your life and the organizations you inhabit are dependent upon the quality of questions posed and answered.

During the interview with a potential employer, ask as carefully as possible, “What stories can you tell me about the company or organization”. If they have no stories, you may want to consider another company or organization.

As soon as possible, assemble a “Go to hell” fund equal to six months of salary available in case you need to refuse to engage in an unethical, illegal or extremely distasteful activity.

Attempt to locate the leaders in the organization who has real concern about defining the next decade.

Find out and then think about the years your boss was a teenager.

Begin to develop a flexible plan for the future. It is a truism that individuals and organizations that plan, seldom follow their plans, but they tend to perform better than those who do not plan.

Recognize the value of patience and silence. It usually takes a few years to achieve a top position in an organization.

Top Gifts for Medical School Graduates

This may be open for (a lot of) discussion… but here’s my list.  Feel free to send it to parents, significant others, etc.  If anyone has any other ideas, let me know – I’ll keep adding to the list!

1.  A weekly maid service for period of time (a year if you can)

2.  A gym membership for a period of time (a year if you can).  Probably better to make this a certificate of some kind for “after you get settled” – if they are moving to another city for their internship, they will want to join the gym that their friends use.

2.  A new (top of the line) smart phone

3.  A Kindle or other electronic reader (plus a gift certificate for non-medical books, if you can)

4.  “Homemade” meals certificates (if you don’t live somewhere close and can’t do this yourself, find a “ready prepared” food service.   I googled for “premade healthy meals” in Houston, for example,  and found at least 8 different businesses that do this. )

5.  Gift certificates to Whole Foods market or other healthy grocery stores.

6.  A new laptop with video (if they don’t have one that lets them use Skype or other video services)

7.  A week of vacation before they start their internship.

8.  A nice pen will be appreciated… and might be used… if it’s not immediately lost when you are on call…

9.  If you are thinking about a watch (which is nice) remember where it is going to live and that it will be taken on and off all day.  It should have practical things like an alarm and a stopwatch/second hand.  It’s fine to get a fancy watch, but it will be worn on vacation or trips home (and not in the hospital).

10.  A letter with all the things you think are wonderful about them, why you are proud of them and why you think they are going to be a fabulous doctor.

11.  A wok.  It turns out that cheaper (carbon steel) is better than expensive when it comes to woks.  Do a little research on the subject, but I recommend the classic, round bottom cheap wok.

12.  Kitchen supplies to cook for themselves.  There are several options in this category:  a good set of knives, a set of pots and pans, baking supplies, or a gift certificate to a cooking store.

13.  A gift certificate to Penzey’s spices ( if they are already a cook (or you think it will encourage them to cook)

What NOT to buy —-

1.  Any medical equipment (unless you are a practicing physician yourself and it’s specific to the graduate’s chosen specialty).

2.  A black bag.  This is a little debatable because these are very sentimental… but no one I know has ever used their black bag.

3.  Anything for an office (won’t happen until after residency, so save this for when they finish their residency)