Keynote speaker to medical students: ‘This is your story, this is your song’

Robert B. Holstein, D.O., who has 40 years’ experience as a physician, said the most fulfilling aspect of being a doctor is building personal relationships with patients.

The importance of defining one’s story and listening to patients’ stories was the main message Holstein shared with the newest class of medical students at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM). Holstein delivered the keynote speech to 198 first-year students during the school’s annual Convocation and White Coat Ceremony on Aug. 24.

“To this day, I learn so much from my interaction with my patients — hearing about their families, their vacations, their hobbies and things that interest them. I have a sincere interest in hearing their story. I guess it is part of my heritage as a West Virginian where storytelling is deeply rooted in our culture,” the Class of 1979 graduate said to the audience. “I find that getting to know my patients on a personal level enhances the doctor-patient relationship. I truly believe I give them better care because I know them personally. Sharing life stories with one another is about being human and engaging in life together. It exemplifies mankind’s drive to be relational.”

Medical students navigate a long road in becoming physicians who take the time to invest in patient relationships. The Convocation and White Coat Ceremony marks the Class of 2023’s commitment to a life of health care service and is the first step in one’s medical school journey. The coat symbolizes a student’s pledge to the osteopathic profession and to serve communities and individuals.

WVSOM President James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., told the class that the ceremony welcomes students not only to WVSOM but into the community of osteopathic physicians.

“We are gathered here today on this beautiful campus because of the dedicated hard work of people who came before you,” he said. “We stand here on the shoulders of giants: Our founders, Drs. Apgar, Bailes, Newell and Wallington; our first president, Dr. Roland Sharp; and many others. I especially want to remember today Dr. O.J. Bailes, who was our last living founder until his passing a couple weeks ago. Dr. Bailes was a remarkable man and a giant in the osteopathic medical profession.”

Nemitz encouraged the first-year students to envision themselves as the osteopathic physicians they want to become, even though it will require perseverance and commitment.

“Putting on the white coat will not transform you into an osteopathic physician. There’s a lot of hard work that will be required of you to earn your white coat. It will require growth, both intellectually and emotionally, and in time you’ll make your white coat your own. Have a vision for yourself,” he said.

Holstein also spoke about the symbolic representation of the white coat.

“When you are presented with your white coat this morning, wear it as an outward symbol of an inward calling — a calling of genuine love and care for your patients,” he said. “Take the time to hear their personal story without silencing them or allowing yourselves to be silenced. Class of 2023, dare to hear the diverse stories of your peers, of one another and of those seated with you this morning. Hear their stories with ears that are open and hearts that are gracious. Engage in life together. The relationships you develop at WVSOM will last forever. You are now part of each other’s story. You are now part of the WVSOM story, and your lives will be changed. This is your story, this is your song.”

The ceremony also included brief greetings from WVSOM Board of Governors Chair Steven Sarver, Alumni Association Secretary/Treasurer Ryan Newell, D.O., and West Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association President Arthur Rubin, D.O.

Holstein is board certified in family medicine and had a career in solo practice until 2015 when he transitioned to employment with MyHealthOnSite, a wellness medical facility that provides care to employees and dependents of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Department and the Charlotte County Government in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is the vice chair of the WVSOM Board of Governors and received the WVSOM Distinguished Alumni of the Year award for 2019.

The Convocation and White Coat Ceremony coincides with WVSOM’s Alumni Weekend hosted by the Alumni Association. Graduates return to campus for continuing medical education and other events including an outdoor concert, barbecue and reunion dinner. Some alumni assist in the ceremony by presenting white coats to students.

Date Added: 
Monday, August 26, 2019