It is an honor to write these words and sincerely say congratulations on your tremendous achievements. While you and I didn’t have the exact SLU experience, we have been shaped by dedicated faculty, high standards, and rigorous programming. When I stepped out into the world as an entry-level dietitian, it became clear to me that I was prepared. Scared, but prepared.

However, I also sincerely say: I am sorry. Sorry that this celebration, this grand finale of sorts, doesn’t look the way you hoped it would. It doesn’t look the way my graduation from Saint Louis University did. In addition to the actual ceremony, you have missed the graduation parties, the gathering of loved ones who wanted to celebrate you, and even taking that last stressful exam alongside your colleagues. Life has changed, and we do not know if it will go back. We are all navigating this uncertainty.

But as both an alumna and former faculty member of the Doisy College of Health Sciences, I know what is certain: you are ready for whatever lies ahead. Your Saint Louis University education, rooted in the Jesuit tradition, has prepared you to be the light during darker moments like these and to be women and men for and with others. Of all the lessons we learned from this institution, my favorite is the respect we have for our clients, patients, and families. The ability to walk beside them, and not simply come at them with our “plans;” the humility to recognize that it is a privilege to help them during their vulnerable moments in life; and to quote from Hippocrates, “To cure sometimes, treat often, and comfort always.”

While you have been finishing up your coursework, you have witnessed your peers already in the field. Superheroes with exhausted eyes and lines on their faces from hours of wearing protective masks. Observing them, it has become clear how much the world needs you. Not just any health professionals, but those with compassion for their patients and passion for their profession. Our world will not get better merely with well-educated professionals; these current and future wounds require care from those willing to think critically and pause in honest self-reflection. Our world is in dire need of more caring, service-oriented health professionals who can seek to treat not just the virus or ailment, but the whole person. You are uniquely qualified to help fulfill that need.

This burden does not fall on your shoulders alone. Your educators have made it clear that you must collaborate with your colleagues, patients, their families and your communities. And you can look to each other for strength and support; to be One SLU, together in the communities you serve.

From one SLU graduate to another, thank you. Thank you for your commitment to soak up this education and experience. And, most importantly to continue to stay curious learning, living and loving in your chosen fields.

 

 

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.