Journey into honourable profession of medicine - Prof. Lawson addresses ACM’s 7th White Coat students
It seemed like only yesterday when the Accra College of Medicine (ACM) celebrated its first matriculation ceremony.
That was in April 2016, with an initial enrolment of 14 pioneering students: seven at Level 100, and seven at Level 200.
I still remember that occasion.
It was exceptional and exciting.
At the time, Prof. Afua Hesse, a pediatric surgeon of repute announced, “Our passion is to produce medical doctors who will see themselves as taking part in the crusade: the crusade against disease, poverty, ignorance, underdevelopment and mediocrity, making full use of innovative science and technology.”
She advised the students to remember that “character is like pregnancy.
Whatever you do, it will show up sooner or later — good or bad.
I don’t mind if this becomes my signature tune that you will always remember.
“So onward we move in our steady march to assist Ghana in achieving the World Health Organisation (WHO) goals of patient to doctor ratio of 1:1,000.”
She noted at the time that in Ghana, the ratio was 1.8 doctors to 10,000 patients.
This 7th White Coat ceremony took place November 3, 2023.
From the dais — and having been with the students since the very beginning — it was quite emotional to hear students take the oath as follows:
“In pursuit of excellence, I dedicate myself to a lifetime of learning, teaching, and innovating the art and science of medicine.
I will approach medical education with integrity, passion, and humility, respecting the patients and teachers from whom I shall learn.
I will not be ashamed to say, ‘I know not’, nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.”
Prof. Aaron Lawson
We were blessed to have had Prof. Aaron Lante Lawson as the special guest of honour.
He is an inspiration to students, having won the Best Teacher Award for the Basic Sciences on five consecutive occasions (2001-2005), the University of Ghana Best Teacher Award for the Sciences (2004), and the University of Ghana Distinguished award for Meritorious Service (2013).
He has held various administrative positions at the University of Ghana, and these include Head of the Department of Anatomy, Dean of the University of Ghana Medical School, and Provost of the College of Health Sciences.
Prof. Lawson is Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences and an Honorary Fellow of the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons.
He also is the current Chairman of the Board of Governors of All Nations University in Koforidua and a Member of Council of Accra College of Medicine.
He spoke as follows:
This day marks a noteworthy milestone in your lives as it is the beginning of your journey into the honourable profession of medicine.
Do not consider the white coat you will wear today as just a uniform; it symbolises responsibility, and a commitment to the highest standards of care. In wearing it, you pledge to demonstrate compassion as you begin to interact with patients and their families during their moments of pain and suffering.
The white coat indeed is a symbol of the trust that patients and their loved ones will place in your hands and remember that it represents not only the knowledge you've acquired, but also the dedication, integrity, and compassion you bring to the medical profession.
But this trust is not given lightly; it is earned through countless hours of study, practice, and a persistent search for excellence.
The path to becoming a physician is long and arduous, and at times, it may seem daunting.
You will encounter challenges, sleepless nights, and periods of uncertainty.
But remember, it's surely during these periods that you will discover your true strength.
Note a few principles that have guided my own journey which I believe may be relevant in yours: Empathy: The ability to put yourself in your patients' shoes ― to truly understand what they are going through ― is at the heart of medicine.
Empathy is not a mere skill; it's a fundamental aspect of your duty as a healthcare provider.
Lifelong Learning: Medicine is an ever-evolving field.
Your white coat is not a mark of finality but rather a key to a lifetime of continuous learning.
Stay curious, keep seeking knowledge, and never stop learning.
Teamwork: Medicine is a shared endeavour.
You are part of a healthcare team, and your ability to communicate effectively and work congenially with nurses, and other healthcare professionals is essential.
Integrity: Trust is at the heart of the patient-physician relationship.
Always act in the best interest of your patients, even when no one is watching.
Self-Care: In the process of caring for others, don't forget to care for yourself.
Your well-being is critical in providing the best care to your patients.
In closing, I want to leave you with the words of Sir William Osler, a pioneer in modern medicine, who said, “Medicine is learned by the bedside and not in the classroom.“
Also, "The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease."
May you all strive to be great physicians, dedicated to the well-being of your patients, and may your white coats forever remind you of the influence you have the privilege to make on the lives of others.
The writer is a trainer of teachers, leadership coach, motivational speaker and quality education advocate.