It is a tradition at Carnegie Mellon University that professors take turn to deliver ‘the last lecture’. The speakers are asked to imagine that they are going to talk to students for the last time, and may discuss any topic they like. We can only guess that most of those lectures must be enlightening.
On 18 September 2007, Dr Randy Pausch made the program world famous. His lecture was entitled ‘Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams’. After a humorous introduction, he told the audience he was suffering from recurrent pancreatic cancer and only had a few more months to live. But no, there was no time for sorrow and self-pity. When the days were numbered, Randy trimmed down trivial things and only considered what was important. He demonstrated the vigor, passion and love of life.
Last week at the medical grand round, TL came close to that. Unlike others, the neurologist spent the first half of his talk discussing what quality a doctor should have. He wished future doctors to be responsible and knowledgeable. They should be patient, have empathy and work as a team.
At the back of the lecture theater, our colleagues were deeply moved by his effort. The qualities he mentioned were more important than the medical facts we taught. On the other hand, we felt it disconcerting that those had to be spelled out. What would you think if a bank manager has to tell the clerks it is wrong to steal?