Laura Mosqueda, MD

Commencement Speech
May 12, 2018

Let me begin by simply saying, to the Keck School of Medicine of USC Class of 2018: Congratulations!

Thank you Reverend Burklo. Let me begin by simply saying … to the Keck School of Medicine of USC … Class of 2018: Congratulations!

Provost Quick, Dr. Mitchell Lew, Dr. Gary Gibbons, Mr. Gene Gregg, Dr. Richard Zeiss, esteemed faculty, staff, alumni … and honored guests: Welcome and thank you for being here today!

And … a warm welcome to the mentors, family and friends of our graduates.

While only our graduates will be presented with diplomas today … it is also true that reaching this extraordinary moment was a team endeavor. Without the help and support from family, faculty, mentors, counselors and the friends with whom you are seated today, it would have been a more difficult journey. But, with their support – physical, emotional, spiritual, you are all here today to celebrate and contemplate your accomplishments.

So, to those of you who mentored today’s graduates … and to those who supported and encouraged them, I salute each of you.

Graduates, please join me in thanking everyone who helped you get here today.

As you take this next step in your career, remember what it is like to be surrounded by people who care about your success and happiness. Remember this warm feeling and the confidence that comes from the knowledge that you are not alone in shouldering a heavy burden or making a difficult decision. Medicine is not delivered by a physician alone. Instead, at its best, it is delivered through a great team. Nurses, physician assistants, schedulers, physical therapists, dieticians, and many others – they all play a central role in the care and treatment of our patients and their families.

You are graduating at an auspicious time in the history of medicine. This is indeed a very exciting time to be a physician.

It’s staggering to think of how the practice of medicine has changed in the past few decades … let alone since the first class of nine students who graduated from the USC College of Medicine … 130 years ago!

Yet as far as our field has come, the promise of greater breakthroughs ahead is even more astounding.

Simply look at the resources we have at our fingertips today. The breathtaking technology, the access to big data, the precise understanding of the structure and function of the human body, often at the molecular level. Combine those things with the dedication and ingenuity … the care and compassion … you will undoubtedly be bringing to the practice of medicine.

The future looks very bright indeed.

As I considered what to say this afternoon — what ideas I hoped you might take with you —three pairs of words came to mind –
The first pair includes two words we use quite a bit here at USC: Convergence and collaboration.

Both are increasingly important in 21st century medicine. Both concern the joining together of different fields of knowledge. But, they have some differences.
Convergence is like the combining of different colors to form one … brilliant new color. We see it when seemingly disparate areas merge to form something new … and the two fields become indistinguishable from one another. Our own faculty member, Denis Evseenko is an example of this: Trained in medicine and molecular pharmacology, he is a member of the orthopedics department. The research program in his lab forms a bridge between basic studies of early embryogenesis, stem cell biology, and the application of stem cell and small molecule-based therapies for post-traumatic and degenerative joint disease. He may have the next breakthrough for treatment and maybe even create the reversal of osteoarthritis, a crippling disease for millions of people.

Collaboration, on the other hand, is more like multiple colors coming together to form a rainbow, where each color is distinct from the next, although they blend into each other a bit. When these distinct colors come together they produce a beautiful and new entity. Our Geriatric Assessment Program is a great demonstration of this concept: people from the fields of medicine, nursing, psychology, social work, occupational therapy, dentistry, and pharmacy work together in a closely coordinated fashion to best serve older adults and their families. In medicine, it’s how we incorporate expertise from across health sciences… and from fields outside of health… to come up with new approaches to care for people and sometimes cure disease. The future of medicine depends on drawing in expertise from outside of one’s own specialty. It is about broadening and enhancing the possibilities. It’s exciting to think that you will solve health problems that now seem intractable. So, I hope you will continue to embrace opportunities to collaborate and converge … not just with people in the usual health fields but also with ethicists, public policy experts, artists, economists and others.

The second pair of words to mention is pride … and humility. Earning an M.D. is a big deal. It requires a mixture of intelligence, dedication, curiosity and compassion. You should be proud of all you have done to this point.

And in the years ahead, I hope you’ll pause from time to time… to reflect with pride on the work you’ve done.
At the same time, humility is an essential attribute for any good physician.

This can be difficult: Doctors too often are seen — or we see ourselves — as infallible. Don’t believe the hype! Most of us realize that we can’t know everything…that we will make mistakes…and that there is always more to learn.

The best physicians are humble enough to understand that some of the most important lessons will come from colleagues — doctors, nurses, medical assistants and others we work with. And, most of all, from our patients. These lessons will come if we listen with an open heart and take time to absorb and incorporate what we learn into our beings.
The final pair of words is privilege and responsibility. It is a privilege to have those two little letters M and D after your name. It’s a privilege you’ve earned through hard work and dedication, and one you will continue to earn for many years to come.

For me, those two letters have given me the privilege of innumerable gifts. I am a family physician who focuses on care of older adults and their families. I still make house calls. Being in someone’s home, surrounded by their family members during critical moments, sometimes the last moments of their lives is truly a privilege. Over the years those interactions have taught me about what is important in life: friends, family, a sense of contentment about what we’ve done and why we’ve done it, a sense of purpose as we look to the future.

But — like most privileges worth having — being a physician comes with responsibility. In whatever field you pursue, recognize and embrace the importance of your role in your community and in our society. Treasure it, and honor it.

Graduates, you are the next generation of health care leaders… and we look to you to solve the great challenges in front of us:

  • To build on the work of your teachers and mentors.
  • To develop cures and treatments for diseases that as yet have none.
  • And to deliver care to those in Los Angeles and throughout the world who most need it.

To accomplish lofty goals, to excel in our profession, and to heal others, you will first need to take good care of yourselves. Medicine can become an all-consuming pursuit. So, take time to relax and recharge.

Nurture the relationships in your life.

And never stop learning — and not just about medicine, but about the world around us. Take an active interest in the world that you inhabit, the communities you encounter. Understand not only the world that you live in but the worlds and the communities that our patients live in.
Your patients… your loved ones…and you, yourselves, will be better for it.

To the Keck School of Medicine Class of 2018 … each of you will make unique, wonderful and vital contributions.
As we celebrate today’s remarkable milestone, we are grateful that you will always be members of the Trojan family … and we look forward to all of the ways you will improve the lives and the well-being of others. We are so proud of each and every one of you.

Congratulations! and Fight On!