Convocation speaker to grads: ‘Why not you?’

Thomas Gross, M.D., Ph.D., Deputy Director of Science for the Center for Global Health at the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI), gave the keynote address at the May 3 Graduate Studies honors convocation.

Fifty-eight students were hooded and would collect their degrees the next day at spring commencement. Please see a photo album of honors convocation here.

Dr. Gross is a UNMC alum and is believed to be the first in med center history to achieve M.D. and Ph.D. degrees on the same track, finishing in 1988.

Though he obviously has achieved his share of successes, “One of the biggest honors of my career is to be able to come back,” he told recently-hooded degree candidates.

And he had some advice for achieving similar success. First off, “Why not you?”

“Thirty-one years ago today, I was sitting where you are sitting,” Dr. Gross said.

But, how did he achieve that success? He gave graduates-to-be a handful of principles to work and live by.

Remember who you are and where you came from.
Dr. Gross has been fortunate to rub shoulders with many luminaries, and he never tires of telling them he is from Cambridge, Neb. One of his favorite quotes is, “Value people and use things. Not vice versa.”

Keep your eyes on the prize. Remember, it is a marathon, not a sprint.
Advances in science are incremental, and built upon the work of previous advances. One of his greatest wins, he recalled, came when he and his collaborators asked, simply, “What is the next most logical step to take?”

Be open to new opportunities.
Yes, change is often uncomfortable, if not downright scary. But, again, if you have people you value and trust, they can help you make that leap. And, if it is a mistake . . . learn from it!
“No career ever hinges on one paper, one grant, one project or one job,” Dr. Gross said.

Have fun.
Life is too short not to enjoy it, Dr. Gross said. “Your job should not define you. You should be defined by the job that you do,” he said.