Cleveland Clinic chief urges graduating med students to always welcome new challenges

May 11, 2019

Tom Mihaljevic, M.D.

Physicians trained at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine will be well-equipped to play an important role in the new world of patient-centered, collaborative health care, Cleveland Clinic’s top executive told the college’s 2019 graduating class Saturday – the first to include students from all three Heritage College campuses.

“The development of medicine is in an unprecedented phase,” said Cleveland Clinic CEO and President Tom Mihaljevic, M.D. Calling the Heritage College “one of the most forward-thinking educational institutions that I have ever seen,” Mihaljevic said members of its newest graduating class “should be very, very excited about your path forward.”

Mihaljevic spoke at the Heritage College’s 40 th annual Commencement at the Ohio University Convocation Center. With the addition this year of the first 44 graduates from the college’s Cleveland campus, which opened in 2015 in affiliation with Cleveland Clinic, the class of 2019 was easily the biggest in the college’s history, with 228 students eligible to receive D.O. degrees. Last year saw the graduation of the first students from the Heritage College, Dublin, which opened in 2014 in partnership with OhioHealth.

Mihaljevic suggested to the 2019 graduates that one of the most important aspects of their training is its emphasis on teamwork, which is an essential feature of the new patient-centered model for health care delivery both partners have embraced.

“The path to success leads through teamwork,” he said. “I do believe that collaboration is the new miracle drug.”

Another essential feature of the new model embraced by both the Clinic and the medical school is the importance of primary care. Mihaljevic noted that in 1990, Cleveland Clinic had 10 primary care doctors on staff; it now employs more than 400, he said. Approximately 47 percent of the Heritage College class of 2019 are entering primary care specialties.

Mihaljevic cautioned the students not to expect – or to want – their challenges to lessen as they progress in their careers, but always to seek to move out of their comfort zones. “You are not here to enter a simple profession,” he said. “Comfort means stagnation; comfort means lack of development.” Being a physician “should be tough, and it should be challenging.” He suggested: “We don’t do medicine; we live medicine.”

Heritage College, Cleveland, Dean Isaac Kirstein, D.O., pronounced himself “incredibly proud and excited” to see the first class graduate from the campus, which is located at Cleveland Clinic South Pointe Hospital, as he thanked the Cleveland students “for believing without seeing, as you applied to a medical school campus that was still being developed.”

He also acknowledged the important role graduates from Athens and Dublin have played as members of the first three-campus class. “By sharing your ideas for making the Heritage College experience better for all students, you also have been integral to our success during this period of monumental growth,” Kirstein said.

Ken Johnson, D.O., Heritage College executive dean and Ohio University chief medical affairs officer, highlighted the stories of one student from each of the college’s three campuses in Athens, Dublin and Cleveland. “Each and every one of you has traveled a unique path to graduation day,” he noted. “Two hundred and twenty-eight paths have led you to this moment.”

Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis, Ph.D., welcomed the graduates to “two new communities” – the more than 250,000 OHIO alumni worldwide and “a community of noble professionals devoted to health, healing and caring.”

Nicole Zell, president of the class of 2019 at the Heritage College, Cleveland, stressed the unity of three campuses in different parts of the state. “Although we have been on three separate campuses, we are still classmates and have bonded helping each other navigate this process,” Zell said. She advised her fellow graduates against the habit of always looking forward to the next milestone, such as graduation, residency or attending physician status. “Stop waiting for these ‘somedays’ and instead embrace today,” she recommended.

Fully 98 percent of the graduating class are from Ohio, 26 percent are from minority backgrounds, and 23 percent are first-generation college students. The class included seven members who are pursuing careers in military medicine in the U.S. Army and Air Force. About 70 percent of the class will remain in Ohio for graduate medical education.