To the Editor:
When I earned my doctorate degree, I vividly recall standing in line backstage excitedly waiting for my turn to be hooded. To me, that was the definitive “I did it” moment of my doctoral journey. What I saw in those moments created a flashback of my years of study and a newfound respect for the people who helped get me to that point—mentors, family, and friends.
My graduate school had a tradition that the entire faculty sat on the stage for the duration of the commencement ceremony. The sequence of hooding at my institution was by department. As I advanced in line, eagerly and nervously waiting to be hooded, I saw my 80-year-old doctoral advisor on her feet. As the line progressed, I stood by her and whispered, “Why are you standing?” Her response could have knocked me over with a feather. “I am standing out of respect, honor, and admiration for the work you put in and sacrifices you made to get to this point.” Then she continued and said, “Look, we are all standing.” I looked up, and sure enough, all the faculty members in my department were standing as their students were hooded. I was so stunned that I nearly missed hearing my name called for the hooding.
At that moment, I vowed that when I joined a faculty, I too would stand in honor of the arduous journey each student took to get his or her MD or PhD (or in some cases both) degrees. Several years ago, though I am sure people wondered why, I stood as all the medical and doctoral students at my institution were hooded. In recognition and honor of their sleepless nights, endless studying, missed family events, experiments that did not work, and social events they had to miss, I stood. For those moments they felt discouraged, hopeless, hungry, and depleted, I stood to honor them. For their ability to overcome the inevitable imposter syndrome that likely seeped into their consciousness, I stood to acknowledge their perseverance.
This year, and every year at commence ment, I encourage you to join me and stand as the medical and doctoral students get hooded. Let us honor their journey.
Ruth Gotian, EdD, MS
Assistant dean for mentoring and chief learning officer in anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, New York; [email protected]; Twitter: @RuthGotian; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2484-2205.