‘The Right Decision is Always To Be Kind,’ CNN’s Gupta Tells Georgetown Medical School Graduates

A long view of the stage at commencement with all the faculty seated in a row on either side of the podium where Sanjay Gupta speaks before a large audience
The 174 members of the School of Medicine Class of 2024 gathered on the lawn outside Healy Hall for their commencement ceremony. (All images: Sam Levitan)

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(May 20, 2024) — The 174 members of the School of Medicine Class of 2024 arrived at Georgetown University for their May 19 commencement ceremony as students and left as physicians.

The 93 women and 81 men gathered with family, friends and loved ones on the lawn outside Georgetown University’s historic Healy Hall — a dramatic contrast to the way they began their medical education.

Dean Jones speaks from a podium
Lee Jones, MD

In 2020, classes for the future-doctors began virtually as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the world and the entire university moved to online classes.

“We might be the first Georgetown class to hold a virtual white coat ceremony, to palpate a pillow, or percuss a tissue box,” said Paul Henderson, MD (M’24), student council class president. “Although our experiences were unique, we weren’t deprived of the quintessential Georgetown medical journey.”

“The Class of 2024 continues the long tradition of Georgetown graduating outstanding physicians,” said Lee Jones, MD, dean for medical education. “This class, however, in addition to the rigors of medical school, began with a worldwide pandemic in place and has completed their studies in the midst of many challenges in our country and the world — mastering the art and science of becoming physicians, building a wonderful class community, and serving our communities. What wonderful people to welcome to the next chapter in their medical careers.”

Sage Advice

Sanjay Gupta speaks from a podium
Sanjay Gupta, MD

CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, MD, delivered the commencement address and was presented with an honorary degree from Georgetown.

“What a thrill it is for me to be here,” said Gupta, a neurosurgeon. “I’m tremendously honored to be here, grateful at the opportunity to share a few words and frankly humbled that anyone really cares what I have to say.”

In an address marked by sage advice and peppered with moments of levity, Gupta advised the graduates to always be kind and to become wise.

“The right decision is always to be kind,” he said. “It may not seem like it at the moment. There’s going to be a lot of sources of frustration and irritation, but the arc of history is long, and you’re always going to feel better if you made the decision to be kind.”

He also suggested that the new doctors not spend their life trying to prove they’re smart.

“I’ll just say it, you’re smart,” Gupta said. “You’ve proven it. So instead, spend your time becoming wise. There’s a difference. A smart person knows the right answers. A wise person knows the right questions. Spend your time asking the right questions.”

Students react to Dr. Gupta's speech with laughter
Gupta’s address was peppered with moments of levity.

Gupta also challenged students to not leave well-enough alone, pointing out that the expression “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” shouldn’t apply to medicine.

“Keep fixing,” he said. “If it’s not broke, that somehow means that you’ve made it perfect. It’s not perfect. So keep tinkering, keep improving, keep fixing. No one has earned the privilege more than you.”

Gupta urged the graduates to not let fear hold them back, and that not being scared is bad. “Do one thing every day that scares you,” he said. “In the process, you’ll become the action hero of your own life.”

Finally, Gupta reminded the graduates to nurture the important friendships made at Georgetown.

“Of the few touchstones that you hold close to your heart, place lifelong friendships right there at the very top,” he said. “Appreciate those friendships, nurture them, make them grow. And realize as you get older, these friendships will become some of the most valuable things you have in your life.”

Dean Jones and President DeGioia place a yellow hood over the shoulders of Sanjay Gupta, MD.
Jones and Georgetown President John J. DeGioia hood Sanjay Gupta, MD, for his honorary doctor of science degree.

The Newest Georgetown Alumnus

Jones and Georgetown President John J. DeGioia presented Gupta with an honorary doctor of science degree. Edward B. Healton, MD, MPH, executive vice president for health sciences and executive dean of the School of Medicine, read the citation that concluded:

“In recognition of his unparalleled contributions to the field of medical and science journalism, his steadfast commitment to the pursuit of truth, and his unwavering dedication to public service through journalism, Georgetown University is privileged to bestow upon Dr. Sanjay Gupta the degree of doctor of science, honoris causa.”

A Tribute to Edward B. Healton, MD, MPH

Dr. Healton speaks from a podium
Edward B. Healton, MD, MPH

During commencement, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia shared an appreciation for Edward B. Healton, MD, MPH, executive vice president for health sciences and executive dean of the School of Medicine, who will step down at the end of June.

“Over these last nine years, we’ve been fortunate to have the leadership of Dr. Healton at our Medical Center and our School of Medicine and Ed, as you conclude these years of service, we’re deeply grateful to you for the contributions you’ve made to our community, for the future of health sciences and to medical education at Georgetown,” DeGioia said. “On behalf of all of us, I wish to thank you.”

Watch This Year’s Commencement Ceremony

Scenes from Commencement 2024

Paul Henderson carries the school banner

Paul Henderson, MD (M’24), carried the banner for the School of Medicine.

Almasri accepts his diploma from Dean Jones

Mohamad Almasri, MD (M’24), accepted his diploma from Dean Lee Jones, MD.

Students look up at the stage

Members of the Class of 2024 listened to Sanjay Gupta, MD, speak.

Students exit the venue smiling broadly

The School of Medicine’s newest graduates rejoiced in their accomplishments. The Class of 2024 comprises 174 students – four of whom received an MD/PhD and four who obtained an MD/MPH.

Ruba Omeira takes a selfie in the crowd of fellow students

Ruba Omeira, MD (M’24), captured a moment at commencement.