Medical School Graduates “Coming of Age in a Transformed System”

Posted in GUMC Stories

May 18, 2015—The 93 women and 93 men comprising the graduating class of Georgetown University School of Medicine assembled at Washington’s National Theater on Sunday morning, May 17, to receive their medical degrees (new window).

They also honored one of their own: Richard Gilfillan, MD, MBA (new window), who earned his undergraduate and medical degrees at Georgetown, received the honoris causa, or honorary doctor of science degree. Gilfillan, president and CEO of Trinity Health, also delivered the commencement address.

Gilfillan counseled graduates they would be among the first physicians to enter medical practice following passage of the Affordable Care Act. “You will be coming of age in a transformed system poised like never before to provide every American an equal opportunity to reach their potential for a healthy life.”

Building a “people-centered health system”

Georgetown University Medical Center Executive VP for Health Sciences Howard J. Federoff, MD, PhD (new window), presented Gilfillan with his honorary degree, citing Gilfillan’s “many innovative solutions for improving the nation’s health care system. He successfully navigated through the turbulent era of health care reform, and provided exemplary leadership to the three key perspectives of government, payer and provider,” Federoff said.

Following a distinguished career in family medicine, and executive positions at a large health system and in the health insurance industry, Gilfillan was tapped by the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to help chart a successful path for the Affordable Care Act. Gilfillan was the first leader of the CMS Innovation Center, where he was instrumental in establishing new payment and delivery models. In October 2014, he became CEO of Trinity Health.

“I come to you today with a simple request,” Gilfillan said to the graduates. “Please help us build a people-centered health system.” It means, he explained, designing and delivering care starting from the patients’ needs, not from the providers’, as so often has occurred in the past.

Gilfillan said Trinity Health is in the process of building such a system. He and colleagues ask themselves—with the perspective of a person or family being cared for in their system in mind—how should we design a lab, or what visiting hours make sense?  

As they embark on medical practice, he encouraged graduates, when uncertain about how to talk to a patient or construct a coverage schedule, to take a “People-centered time out. Pause. See yourself as the patient in the bed or in a wheelchair and ask: ‘How would I want to hear about my diagnosis; how would I want to be covered over the weekend?’”

Gilfillan left the graduates with sound advice for being effective members of health care teams: “Be humble; be curious; be bold; laugh a lot, enjoy your work, and celebrate your team. And remember that listening well to your patients is the starting point of great patient care.”

Hooding the Graduates

Dean for medical education Stephen Ray Mitchell, MD, MBA (new window), led the graduates in the presentation of degrees. He cited demographics about the graduates (in addition to the 50/50 split of women and men): “The youngest is 25 and the oldest is 37; 34 of the states are represented, led by California, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Thirty-three members of this graduating class have a graduate degree.”

The 186 graduates then processed, to the cheers and applause of family and friends. Once the procession concluded, Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, PhD, conferred doctor of medicine degrees to all, with an additional doctor of philosophy degree awarded to the MD/PhD graduate.

The commencement festivities ended as they all do – with the class of 2015 reciting the Oath of Hippocrates led by Donald Knowlan, MD (new window), professor emeritus of medicine.

By Todd Bentsen
GUMC Communications