The President of Malta

Speech by H.E. George Vella, President of Malta, at the Graduation Ceremony of Clown Doctors, Sant’Anton Palace, 15 July 2022

Dear Doctors

Dear Graduands

Distinguished Guests

I am very pleased that you approached the Office of the President to hold this investiture ceremony at Sant’Anton Palace, and even more so, that you asked me to preside over it.

I say so not only as President of the Republic, representing today the gratitude and appreciation of the People of Malta for your work, but also as a doctor myself.

This must be a memorable day for those of you who will be receiving the White Lab Coat today, all the more so as I understand this graduation was meant to take place, as already has been indicated, two years ago.

The mission you are embarking on is no mean feat.

It combines two very contrasting extremes – laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, circuses and hospitals.

Let me, therefore, start by commending you for your bravery.

You must be an outstanding lot.

In more than one way, Dr Klown epitomises all the good that the voluntary sector represents.

I have come to see very closely what your efforts entail through the work that my wife Miriam and I carry out at the Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation.

Dealing with sickness on a daily basis is never easy. I did that throughout my medical career.

Yet when it concerns children, some of whom you already know could be terminally ill, it can be mentally and emotionally very challenging and exhausting.

I can visualise moments where you must rely on your own sense of resilience and stamina, not to let your own emotions and sentiments show.

We all have experience of how devastated families feel when they receive bad news concerning the health of their loved ones, especially children of a tender age.

One can only imagine the impact that such unfortunate events have on a young patient, who most probably does not even understand half of the jargon used, who sees parents in a state of shock or desperation, and who has to give up on the fun and lightheartedness of youth due to insidious or acute symptoms.

Sometimes this happens so suddenly that a sense of confusion and downright fear take over the whole family’s life and experience.

This is where the balance between your medical formation and your humanity and compassion becomes most apparent.

You become Dr Buzz, Dr, Funny, Dr Gerfex, you name it and make all the difference.

The psychological and psychosomatic effect of your work is immeasurable – for those parents who see their sick child smiling and the general sense of respite that you instil in your young patients, besides the atmosphere you create for your other medical and nursing colleagues who must also have their own moments of weakness.

Let us be clear. Not everyone is fit to become a Dr Klown.

Even those who feel they are innately suitable need rigorous and adequate training.

I am, in fact, very pleased to see that Klown Doctor trainees, first of all, go through a meticulous selection process overseen by professionals in the field. The process is a gradual one. Over the span of a year or more, as trainees, you accompany more experienced colleagues in the wards, and are assessed on your suitability by your peers.

Certain attributes are needed – creativity, a sense of team spirit, courage, and openness to observe and learn are undoubtedly needed.

Then comes your emotional intelligence, which I believe is the added value that makes all the difference, especially in the very delicate scenario involving sick children.

Dear Graduands,

As we celebrate your accomplishment today, I think it is fitting that we also thank your families, friends, colleagues, and mentors, without whose support this journey would have been more challenging and difficult to pursue.

I am sure that today they are very proud of you, not only for your proving to be excellent medical professionals but also for the goodness that lies in your hearts.

I add my own sentiments of respect and great expectation in the cohort of graduands we are addressing here today.

I sincerely wish you every success in your professional and personal lives. Thank you.

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