Graduation address given by Dr Douglas D McGregor

Dr Douglas D McGregor gave the occasional address at the Faculty of Pharmacy graduation ceremony held at 11.30am on 23 March 2007.

Dr McGregor is a scientist in the field of cellular immunology and infectious disease, Director of Leadership and Training Initiatives in the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, and recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Veterinary Science of the University of Sydney.

The photo of Dr McGregor is copyright, Memento Photography.

Dr Douglas D McGregor

Graduation address

Thank you, Chancellor Santow, Vice Chancellor Brown, and the faculty of the University of Sydney for the magnificent honor you have bestowed on me today. Thank you too for the privilege of speaking at this convocation.

When first informed of these matters, my reaction was one of disbelief: there must be a mistake. The reason is not far to seek for there are several Douglas McGregors in the academic world. All are distinguished in their respective fields. It is conceivable that one amongst them might be recognized as you have so generously honored me today. But none are veterinarians. I too lack those credentials of course but have had the great good fortune of being a member of the Cornell Veterinary College faculty for 30 years. Thus, the honor you show me has special meaning and I thank you most sincerely.

Recipients of honorary degrees are, from time-to-time, called on to deliver an “occasional address.” Tradition dictates that it should be a scholarly commentary on a matter of global significance. That will not be the case today. Instead, I wish to speak directly to the men and women whose graduation we celebrate, and to share with them some thoughts as they go forward from this splendid hall to careers in pharmacy.

You, our graduates, have been well prepared for your journey. We salute you, and we salute your family members and friends who are gathered here today to witness your graduation. I join them in wishing you success as you embark on a new and rewarding phase of your professional life.

I have a special affinity with the individuals we honor. We have much in common. Prominent amongst our shared interests and experiences is that our academic roots are deeply embedded in the biomedical sciences. You, as graduates in pharmacy, will have opportunities to apply your knowledge and practical skills in ways that will benefit society and by doing so you will enrich the world.

I expect that many of you will pursue traditional careers. It is an appropriate choice and a commendable one for by doing so you will facilitate the delivery of health care to your community. Those who depend on you will be well served for you are positioned to deliver services they need – indeed, they are services which you alone can provide.

But some amongst you may follow different pathways. I hope and trust that those pathways will lead to careers in which you can capitalize on your formal education in ways that will improve the human condition in an even broader context. You could do so through discovery by becoming a biomedical research scientist. Your profession, like the veterinary profession with which I’m more familiar, has much to contribute in this regard. Your pharmacy education and the special skills you have acquired give you a perspective on life processes which complements the contributions made by medical graduates, and graduates in the enabling disciplines of molecular biology, genetics and computer science. Opportunities for discovery abound in the academy, government, and industry. Nowhere are those opportunities more evident than in drug discovery and development and drug evaluation. All are activities to which graduates in pharmacy are naturally drawn.

Teachers too are needed in the biomedical sciences and you, as graduates in pharmacy, are uniquely qualified to educate future pharmacists who will follow in your footsteps.

Some of you may have entertained, or already have planned a career of this sort; others may make that decision later, after consolidating their pharmacy education through practical experiences in the workplace. In either case, I urge you to further explore those options and to act upon them. A new generation of life scientists and biomedically sophisticated teachers is needed and you could have a role. Your profession, like other branches of the biomedical sciences, is changing rapidly, driven as it has been by advances in basic biology. Your education here, at the University of Sydney, has kept pace with that progress and by doing so it has equipped you well for a career in science.

But, a word of caution: Should you pursue a career in discovery or in teaching it would entail a significant extension of your formal education with attendant compromises in your personal life and a further period of deferred gratification. Yet the rewards are many and they are well worth the sacrifices.

Whatever career pathway you choose, I urge you to retain a focus on your ultimate goal. You should keep your options open, of course, and you should be prepared to seize opportunities as they arise; but be sure to make informed decisions at every step along the way. Weigh your options carefully and choose from amongst them options that allow you to grow professionally to a level that enables you to realize your full potential. Making such choices is not an easy matter: it requires objectivity, commitment and practice.

I end these brief remarks by returning to the people who prepared you for your education at this distinguished institution and for life in a broader context. Your family members and friends have unbounded confidence in your capacity to excel. It is a priceless asset. The University too recognizes your ability in the degree it has conferred on you today. We salute you, and we salute your family members and friends who have contributed so richly to your success. Together we wish you professional and personal satisfaction as you move forward to an exciting future. Good luck and thank you.