Hon.z Prime Minister, Dr Robert Abela
President and Principal, Prof Colin Bailey,
Allow me to begin by thanking the President and Principal of Queen Mary University of London, and the academic Staff in charge of the Malta Campus, for inviting me to this historical event in Education in Malta, where we are celebrating the graduation of the first cohort of MBBS students from the Medical School in Gozo.
To the graduands I say “congratulations”. You made it. The first years of studying and sacrifice have given you the deserved results. We are all here today to celebrate with you.
I would also like to thank on your behalf all those who taught you and guided you through your studies. I could see this dedication when I had the opportunity to visit the Campus 2 months ago, and saw the facilities, the reference libraries, and the advanced technology used to develop your examination skills during clinical training.
A word of thanks also goes to all those who in one way or another encouraged you to embark on becoming members of this noble profession. I mean friends, counsellors, teachers… but my biggest thanks on your behalf go to your family, without whose support I am sure you would not have made it.
The knowledge and the skills you have acquired during your studies will stand you in good stead in your future career, wherever this will take you.
I am sure that all of you will also take away with you the good memories of your years living amongst the people of Gozo, and the numerous friendships I know you have established socially.
You will be missed, but I can assure you that you were good Ambassadors and have opened what I hope will be years of such future relations between Queen Mary University Students and the people of Gozo.
I augur that the Queen Mary University Malta Campus goes from strength to strength in the future.
During your years of study, you must have undoubtedly realised what maximum attention and rigorous training we all give to students in the medical profession.
The rigourosity of the training is a foretaste of the high standards expected from you in the medical profession.
I do not want to sound patronising, but at 80 years of age, having qualified in medicine 58 years ago and having practiced for 49 years as a family doctor, I feel I have the credentials to give you some sound and reliable advice.
This is your first major step in your career. I know that many of you will choose to proceed to specialise in further studies. Whichever route you choose towards your future aspirations, be aware that in the medical profession, advances are registered every day, and to keep ahead in his practices any doctor will have to undergo continuous medical education.
In a world where, unfortunately, people are becoming increasingly numbers in a statistic, the intimate contact between a doctor and his patient is being appreciated always more and more.
You would be expected to guide your patients to undergo further investigation, if need be, or advise them to seek further specialised opinion.
Be ready to listen as patients feel more comfortable talking to their physician than to a busy consultant.
Nowadays, and even more so in the coming years, you will not only be dealing with your patients’ symptoms, but you will also be faced with questions and asked advice about a plethora of issues that are continuously spoken about in social media and society in general.
Issues linked to sexual and reproductive health, end of life problems and different social aspects of medical care. How best to calculate the risks of treatment versus the benefits of same treatment.
What is meant by ‘informed consent’? Its medical and legal aspects.
Is any prescribed treatment, justified, whatever the cost? We are faced with problems arising from our greater and easier access to genetic information.
How far should the patient be involved in discussing his treatment plan.
The right and responsibilities of the individual in the collective health care of a community.
Physical and psychological problems faced by undergoing ‘gender reassignment’ patients.
The ever increasing problems with mental health.
These are just a few fields in which doctors have to have the necessary preparation to give sound advice and guidance to their patients.
Live up to the high ethical standards of the medical profession, always and everywhere.
Keep in mind that as doctors we have always to be there for others.
Our profession is not some sort of business. We have to show dedication, engage ourselves, show compassion and understanding, as well as empathy. We have to be ready to share joys and sorrows with our patients.
As doctors your main aim will be the gain the trust of your patients. This does not happen automatically. It has to be earned, little by little, day by day, case by case.
Trust is earned gradually, over time, but can be lost in the wink of an eye.
Patients today, do not have infinite patience.
They do not have blind faith. They are more intelligent and very inquisitive and much more critical than they used to be in the past.
We are dealing with the Google generation.
This is why I am pointing out all this. I am sure your instructors have warned you already. Today’s changing scenario expects of us to be well prepared academically and maintain professional competence.
We have to be good listeners, show empathy, besides behaving always professionally and ethically.
We have to be honest with our patients, and explain ourselves in the clearest of terms, for the patient to understand – not in incomprehensible medical jargon.
We have to show dedication and be consistent in our decisions, not excluding a certain amount of flexibility.
Dear Graduands, I hope I have not frightened you out of your wits! It was not my intention. I just wanted to transmit to you the passion and the love that grows by time spent in the medical profession.
May this time-proven values and ethical principles guide you in your future career and give you lots and lots of personal satisfaction.
As doctors, and hopefully future specialists, when you reach my age you cannot have a greater satisfaction than when somebody comes up to you to thank you for some medical help you would have given him or her years before.
Most probably you would have forgotten the particular case, but I assure you patients will never forget good treatment and undivided attention given to them in time of need.
Wishing you all the best for your future careers.