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Chancellor Michael F. Collins, M.D., delivers Convocation speech on "The promise of hope"

September 15, 2011
Chancellor Michael F. Collins, M.D.

“Very good, right there! Right there, very good!”

The patient, who I shall refer to as Rob, developed verbal paucity following his stroke. Wheel chair bound, with a dense left-sided paralysis, at most times, Rob had a pleasant personality and a gregarious laugh. But, when times were difficult, or if he became frustrated, he would raise his voice. For instance, if he was trying to make his way into the dining room and another patient blocked his way, he would say, “Very good, right there!” But if that patient didn’t immediately move out of the way, the tone would become more strident and the decibel of his statement could reach a crescendo pitch: “Very good, right there!!”

Rob loved the Red Sox, basked in the sun each and every day it shone and was curious about the comings and goings on his nursing home floor. One day, in a dining room conversation following a television piece on our medical school, he overheard someone say that I was the Chancellor at the UMass Medical School. In a spontaneous and firm declaration he proclaimed, “Very good, right there!”

Together we enjoyed a hearty laugh! His verbal communication skills may have been compromised, but we shared that wonderful and overwhelming sentiment.

Good morning and welcome to this year’s Convocation ceremony. What a wonderful privilege it is me for me to have the opportunity to wish you well as we begin, with great hope, this new academic year.

Hope characterizes so much of the mission of our medical school. The promise that education provides to a civilized society is that the educated mind gives hope that we can improve the human condition. The promise of our research efforts and innovative thinking gives hope to the many people worldwide who have, and who will benefit from, the discoveries of our scientists. The promise that clinical care pledges through the determined efforts of our care givers assures that we shall promote the human dignity of each and every patient we encounter, and by so doing, offer them hope.

Each of us should begin this academic year filled with hope. As we look around us, we are surrounded by highly accomplished students. Our faculty, the lifeblood of each academic institution, is particularly distinguished on this campus. Our staff is replete with individuals and teams who care greatly about those that they serve. A collaborative and collegial spirit, especially with our academic health science center partner, UMass Memorial Health Care, is alive on this campus. These strengths compel our actions each and every day.

While dark clouds have characterized the political discourse enveloping our nation, and roiled the financial markets into a tumultuous boil, we remain confident in, hopeful about and committed to our mission. We have a vision that compels us to serve, to inspire and to empower. We continue to attract the best and brightest minds to our campus and to our communities. While we live in the present, our actions shall have their greatest impact in determining the future. Our ambitious hopes are founded in the reality that we believe in what we are and what we can be. Most importantly, we believe in each other!

Read a transcript of the full speech.