We all know excellence when we see it—or realize when we don't—but how can excellence be defined in terms of investigating today's diseases and educating tomorrow's physicians?
At the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and indeed at each of its health sciences schools, where excellence is an everyday pursuit (and a goal that is almost always attained), I believe that creativity, compassion, and leadership are three characteristics of excellence that define it best.
Why? Our mission, first and foremost, is to educate the finest clinicians and investigators; and to be successful in either—or, in some cases, both—of these ventures requires nothing less than outstanding creativity, compassion, and leadership.
One needs to be creative as a clinician because, despite all of the advances of modern medicine, each patient is unique, and diagnoses are not always obvious. One needs to be creative as an investigator because research, by its very nature, involves a quest for that which is unknown and, if discovered, constitutes the next piece of the vast, intricate puzzle we call life.
Compassion is a core principle of all the healing professions and should be the constant “north star” for any health care provider. One will be seeing people who are sick, at their most vulnerable, most freighted and dependent state. In that encounter, beyond any specific prescribed treatments for their illnesses, compassion is the most powerful healing act we can perform.
One needs leadership skills if one hopes to address the extremely complicated problems that we face in the delivery and financing of our nation's health care. As a leader, one needs to embody the principles of justice and fairness and constantly strive to reduce health disparities in our society. Clearly, on this matter in particular, not to be part of the solution is to be part of the problem, which makes good leadership skills essential.
Creativity, compassion, and leadership are the qualities that we seek most in prospective students as well as in our faculty, our administrators, and everyone else who has a hand in making our medical school what it is today.
Evidence of our success in fostering creativity, compassion, and leadership should be evident throughout this website, which I believe reflects just some of the many ways in which these qualities have become ingrained in the culture of our institution and have come to define its excellence.
Anantha Shekhar, MD, PhD
Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences
John and Gertrude Petersen Dean
School of Medicine