Values, Firsts, and Making an Impact in 3 Seconds

leadership and med school
WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine inaugural class

I had the great privilege this weekend to attend the White Coat Ceremony for the inaugural class of medical students for the new WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine in Spokane.

As I listened to the speeches I was struck by Dr. John Tomkowiak’s inspirational keynote address. As the dean of the new school, he asked all the students to list their values or priorities in order of importance. On cue, they recited “health, family and friends and school.” What better way to set these bright and eager minds up for success? If they are not healthy, how can they treat others? If they do not prioritize their family and friends, how can they treat people with care and empathy? If they do not make school a priority, how will they learn all they need to learn to take care of all of us? The order was significant and it was not lost on those of us who were parents in the audience.

As these 60 young people go through the next 4 years on their journey to residency and then to becoming doctors, I hope they realize what a gift they have just been given. At the beginning, they were told what and how to prioritize their next 4 years – the foundation for their learning and growth. With the guidelines, it will be easier for each of them to stay on course and know how to make decisions going forward.

Two other points Dr. T made were also significant. First, he emphasized the importance of “3 seconds.” What can be accomplished in this short period of time? You could apply a tourniquet and save a life, you could clear an airway and save a life, you could set a bone and save a limb. What if business leaders thought about this? In 3 seconds what leadership impact can you have? Actually, a lot. How many decisions are made that quickly? You could also inspire someone to action, make a difference in a life, help someone achieve their dreams.

The second point he made was that life is a series of firsts. This was the first class of the new medical college and this will lead to a 1000 more firsts. So, this class has an obligation to make it meaningful, make it worthy and to pay it forward. They will get to be first and more importantly, pave the way for those who follow.

As leaders, how are we making it easy for all those who follow to have firsts? How can we move out of the way to let those we lead create their own path? By providing a foundation in values that sets the course to follow, we make it much easier.

I also want to personally thank Elson S. Floyd and all those who made his dream come true for providing a path for my son to follow in medicine.