​Valedictory speech

By Joshua Kibera, Master of Medicine, Class of 2015

Your Highness, President Firoz Rasul, members of the Board of Trustees, honoured guests, members of faculty, ladies and gentlemen and my fellow graduates.

I am deeply humbled to stand before you and give this address.

I have spent countless hours wondering what I was going to say today. This has not been made easier by the knowledge that I will be speaking in front of such an eminent audience on behalf of my peers for whom I have the highest respect. For this honor, I thank you.

Today, I stand before you, a pathologist. My fellow graduates are surgeons, physicians and nurses. We are finally graduates, after years of hard work – finally free to pursue our calling with excellence. That is what we are celebrating today. But not just that. No, we are not just graduating as medical professionals. There is something else about us – something special, something I did not expect to happen when I arrived here four years ago. As we studied here, somehow, while we became medical professionals, we also became a family.

Let me tell you a little bit about this family, about our values, our hopes and aspirations.

We came from different backgrounds, different cultures and races to meet here at this University. I remember initially being surprised at just how many kinds of patients and staff members would interact every day from every different color and creed at this University. That wonder, however, quickly wore off as it was replaced by a grim determination to make it through the week as the workload piled and expectations rose.

God! The human mind is a marvel and God in His supreme wisdom somehow decided that He’d not make learning new things ‘easy’. Several of my colleagues with noteworthy body sizes began to look a little less imposing as they lost weight but gained knowledge. We would wake up early and go home late, often spending sleepless nights in the hospital on-call and sometimes losing track of what was happening beyond these walls. During our years of study, we made this place our home to such an extent that some of us joked about giving up the homes we rent and just moving into the hospital permanently.

It was not once or twice that we complained about such things as parking space – which is actually now a national crisis – to more critical issues like not having enough hours in the day to meet both academic and work-related expectations. We eventually learned to balance time and to prioritise activities; to read while in transit and manage crisis situations diplomatically and efficiently; to respect each other and to work together as a team to save a patient’s life.

In hindsight, I now realize that this was the hidden curriculum. This is what sets us apart and makes us a family. Our bonds were forged in fire, our kinship in the shared difficulty of striving to reach the highest standards.

The fact that we were admitted to AKU solely on our academic merit makes us a family because we know each one of us deserves to be here today.

The fact that some of us here, graduate nurses who could not afford to pay tuition fees but who deserved to be here nonetheless, were not abandoned but instead received scholarships from Johnson & Johnson, Rotary International and the Dean’s Fund taught us that we are valued as people not for the money we can give. This makes us a family.

The fact that His Highness, the founder of this University, chose to introduce a world-class sponsored residency system of postgraduate medical education, expecting nothing but excellence in return has instilled in us a sense of self-worth, of deep gratitude and a spirit of giving.

The fact that during our training we were provided access to the most sophisticated of medical equipment and expected to routinely use these equipment with skill and excellence taught us to demand the best of ourselves and to expect the same of any Aga Khan University graduate. This shared value makes us a family.

The fact that you have as a high a chance of meeting a patient in this hospital from Mathare slums as you have of meeting a business tycoon has taught us that quality health care for everyone is not just a pipe-dream but an ideal that we should strive towards everywhere we go! This is why we are a family.

We share these same experiences and aspirations. We will always strive for excellence in our endeavors and will not accept to compromise our standards. We will serve the needy and the wealthy in equal measure and fight inequality in healthcare. We have the confidence to work anywhere in the world because we have been trained as such. We are Aga Khan University graduates.

Therefore, on behalf of the graduating class I wish to thank His Highness for having the vision and foresight to make all this possible; and our faculty, for being both mentors and friends. Thank you for molding us into the professionals we are today. To our parents, spouses, children and friends, thank you for years of patience and understanding, for love and encouragement and for coming here to witness this day. The achievements we have which we celebrate today belong to us all. I wish my colleagues long and prosperous careers and I hope that this University will continue to change lives through its programmes even as we, the alumni, go out to change lives through our work.

Happy 15th Anniversary of Aga Khan University in East Africa!

Thank you for giving me your time, God bless you all!

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