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Class of 2024 Match Day speech

Kira Garry, student speaker

Kira Garry speaks while standing behind a lectern with a Penn State College of Medicine banner; there are balloons to the side and rows of people sitting in front of her.

Kira Garry, student speaker for the class of 2024, makes comments during Match Day on March 15.

Hello friends, family, professors, attendings, and especially hello to Penn State College of Medicine Class of 2024– MATCH Day is here!!

It’s amazing to realize how far we’ve come in 4 years: starting medical school during the COVID-19 pandemic, awaiting our firsts- first lecture, first patient, first anatomy lab, standing nervously in our short white coats. First, I want to say thank you. Thank you to all who could be here today, all the professors who supported us through these years, the family who made us home-cooked meals, the friends who listened to us vent. We are so lucky to have you, and you are a huge part of getting to this day.

One of the first books I read about medicine was Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. It is about Dr. Paul Farmer, a physician and pioneer in treating TB and thinking about social determinants of health. He passed away in February 2022. He remarked, “With rare exceptions, all of your most important achievements on this planet will come from working with others,–or in a word, a partnership”

I’ve thought about this community and partnership through the various phases of medical school and the kind of song or story it would tell. Like some of you, I sang and played an instrument in high school. Music was also a part of my routine in medical school and hopefully for some of you. For some, it’s playing music after a long day in the hospital to unwind, for others it’s singing in the car on an early morning to the OR (guilty). For me, listening to music and playing music was a way to express and process some of the emotions from the day. In medical school, we were often shoulders deep in new knowledge, while also managing new situations with people and patients we deeply cared about.

Beyond the clinical competencies, the skills and knowledge obtained, it is these connections and community we will take with us to “all the places we go” next–it’s that feeling when you get to the chorus and you find yourself singing the same words with the person next to you- the melody clicks.

As a University Park student, I started school with 11 other classmates about 2 hours from Hershey and the other 160 counterparts of our class. We started during the pandemic, so we became well acquainted with Zoom and online classes–this served as a form of connection for us during this time. We entered medical education at a time where Zoom, online resources, and social media were ways to learn, share presentations, and relate to others; they shaped a major part of our education and kept our class connected.

During our clerkship year, we found a sense of community. Even if we were on different rotations, navigating OBGYN, surgery, or psychiatry, we felt connected to one another through these shared, new experiences, discovering the major tune of each rotation. Each month or two weeks we showed up: we engaged, we reset, we dove into thinking (or at least pretending) each day that we maybe could be a dermatologist, a pediatrician, an orthopedic surgeon, a family physician.

At the same time, Penn State College of Medicine gave us the unique opportunity to take a step back and think about connection in a different way- learning about the health system as a whole and making humanities both core pillars of our education. We felt better equipped to make these connections to our patients by considering social determinants of health and factors within the health system that may be affecting the patient’s care. We chose this career to serve our communities, to treat patients with dignity, and to address healthcare disparities in our practice.

And throughout medical school, the background music kept changing. At times it was Taylor Swift, or the ominous song when you know something’s about to happen in a movie, some jazz (potentially courtesy of Dr. Haidet!), and sometimes it was just…elevator music. The music or rhythm of medical school was ever changing- an undulating flow in the beginning, or at times the punctuated, even staccato rhythm of clerkships- switching gears between rotations and starting anew. There was the training and building to the chorus of taking Step 1 and Step 2, and then the accelerated effort during our acting internships. The pacing and connection to music is evident to me in the feeling of learning something fully engaged and dialed in, putting your best work forward, and then taking a quick breath to relax. You get lost in the music.

At times, medical school also forces you to learn to meditate in the moment – what’s called in music “a fermata”- (a pause/rest in the middle) There’s a hesitation, of yearning for more, of reflecting and thinking what’s next. We meditate in the particular hospital setting and in the particular patient case: the first time we correctly diagnosed, our first successful procedure, the first time we broke news, the first code. Those moments were both sacred and meditative in that we will remember them forever in our careers. They are the moments we will carry with us in our next step of training. These pauses also apply to our choice in specialty– to be fully present in that moment with no distractions- we had that feeling of “wait, this is it.” I hope you all can pause in this moment, and be so proud of getting to today.

The tempo of the impending fourth year of medical school was faster-paced with a minor key and more dissonance as we sought to find our path and began the daunting process of entering the MATCH.

But we played together and found new harmonies, realizing where each of us fit in our own specialties, with our own instruments, and our own tools. We regrouped for this year with flexibility, and a feeling of potential and opportunity with residency on the horizon. The melody was getting sweeter as we entered this last stanza. We began to grow into the doctors we are becoming now– a season of discovery for many of us.

And while our class was disconnected at times- we maintained a sense of community and shared goals and values- we rotated in Ghana, in California, in New York, in Brazil, in Washington DC, and right here in Hershey. I look back to the start of our fourth year which was the first time our full class was all together in person- I think of February 2023 as a place and time when our class thought about the type of culture and values we represented and we were a truly cohesive community.

Marina Keegan wrote “The opposite of loneliness” before her undergraduate graduation in 2012. Her words resonate with me as I think about my classmates: “We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found [here]…It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team.”

Today in Hershey is our musical coda or “DC: De Capo”- Italian for a return to the beginning. We’re back, all together, starting something new.

It feels appropriate to share a final message from someone on our team: Dr. Gary Beemer, our classmate and now first-year resident at Penn State. He reminded us, “You all are fantastic, hardworking, brilliant and successful people and no matter what happens don’t let any outcome make you feel any less incredible than you really are. I can’t wait to see the lasting impacts you have on our field. Congratulations to your continued and enduring success.”

It’s been an honor to learn from you and share in this journey with this community –Thank you Penn State College of Medicine, our families, and friends for supporting us.

Now, let’s play the music and get this party started.

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