On Friday, March 11th I had the pleasure of being the keynote speaker for the 2016 Graduating class of Pima Medical Institute " Albuquerque. The Kiva Auditorium in downtown Albuquerque was brimming full and the excitement was palpable. Graduation is always a special time and this ceremony marked a milestone for four special graduates, out of the hundreds in attendance. This was the first graduating class of Penn Foster High School Students in partnership with Pima Medical Institute. The graduation speech I prepared turned out to be particularly fitting as it highlighted the power of gratitude and fortitude, which these four graduates exemplify.

I spoke of my gratitude for the graduates in attendance, as medical professionals, the work they do is truly life changing. Too often families find themselves in grim situations when working with medical professionals, something has gone wrong and needs to be mended. In trying times, it is challenging for families to express their gratitude for those taking care of a loved one. I wanted to make sure the graduates received a thank you for all of the life changing work they will do. What I did not expect is the Penn Foster " Pima High School Graduates, returned my gratitude tenfold. After the ceremony, one graduate took me aside, with tears in his eyes, and told me how the program had changed his life. It had always been a dream of his to work in the medical field, but life had gotten in the way. This was his opportunity to get back on track and he was proud to have his high school diploma. Most importantly, with his diploma in hand, he was now able to enroll with Pima. In fact, all four graduates chose to enroll in Pima, demonstrating a commitment to their future. For these students a high school diploma was just the first step in making their career dreams come to true. I have immense gratitude for the high school graduates displaying the courage to better their lives and ultimately, make their dreams come true.

Fortitude was the other side of the coin to my speech. Part of any career is having the fortitude to keep going when times are tough. This is especially true in the medical field.  When you have a hard day, it can it can be a really hard day-in some cases lives can hang in the balance. For this reason, Pima graduates need to embrace the concept of fortitude wholeheartedly.  I shared the Stockdale Paradox, never give up hope but always confront the brutal facts, with the graduates as a model to create fortitude. By using this model, Pima graduates can take a hard day and confront it head on by looking at the brutal facts. However, they should never give up hope for a better tomorrow or even a better next hour. The high school graduates exemplified this notion.  A high school diploma is something too many of us take for granted. Lacking this credential can be debilitating for both a career and one's self esteem. Can you imagine wanting to move forward into a new career and not having the ability to even attend a school because you don't have a high school diploma? Confronting those brutal facts is difficult, but more difficult yet is keeping hope alive for your dream of a better career. These high school graduates did just that and showed true fortitude by taking the first of two steps to their new career. They are high school graduates and no one can ever take that away from them. More importantly, they are now students at Pima, which will allow them to pursue their career aspirations.

It was my privilege to speak to the 2016 graduates at Pima's ceremony. What I came to realize after stepping from the podium and talking with the graduates though is they are the embodiment of just the concepts I spoke about. Gratitude and fortitude are something these graduates will surely need in their career, but to get to where they are today they already embody these concepts. I am especially appreciative of the time I was able to spend with the Pima " Penn Foster High School graduates. They have a bright future at Pima Medical Institute.