Letter from Dr. Lesse

Alan Lesse, MD.

Dear Class of 2026,

Welcome to the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. My name is Dr. Alan Lesse and I am the Senior Associate Dean for Medical Curriculum.  The Office of Medical Curriculum and the Curriculum Committee are charged with overseeing your education over the next four years.

You are entering medicine at a time of startling change.  The COVID pandemic continues its worldwide grip as the marvels of modern medicine and vaccine development combine to reduce its impact.  The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the impact of race, social determinants of health, and systemic racism and highlights the deficiencies of our current health delivery system.  This is the caldron that you are about to enter.

As an Infectious Disease physician, I look in awe as 29,903 bases of enveloped, single-stranded RNA marched across the planet, causing morbidity and mortality of truly global proportions.  Even surviving an infection with SARS-CoV-2 does not guarantee that one will not suffer from life-long complications of the infection.  The Hippocratic Oath that you will take during your White Coat Ceremony has never been more true: “…I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.”  It is fair to say that this pandemic will in many ways shape your career.  Many of us understand this time from our own experiences. I began my internship just 12 days after I read the first case reports of the introduction of a different virus into the human population, HIV.  For me and many others entering the field at the time it was a career shaping experience.  It appears that COVID-19 will certainly shape yours.

I imagine that all of you have a burning desire to understand the human body, promote health, and treat disease.  Over the next four years, it is the job of our curriculum to teach you how to promote health and treat disease.  Our Educational Mission is: To develop and inspire exceptional physicians and scientists through transformative education. And with your help and hard work, we are confident that you will, in fact, be transformed by your education and in turn, transform healthcare as you deliver it.

We feel that our curriculum prepares you for life-long learning and a fulfilling career in medicine.  The cataclysmic changes occurring around us do not change my outlook for you over the next four years.  You will become excellent, caring, and empathic physicians and scientists and add your knowledge and wisdom to this great field.  There will be bumps along the way, but you will meet this adversity with a greater expectation of change; not just in medicine, but in the world around you.  How best to handle this maelstrom?  Perhaps C.S. Lewis said it best: “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”  The challenge of the pandemic and societal change will prepare you for your extraordinary journey.  And we will be here to help guide you along that path.

Sincerely,

Alan J. Lesse, MD

Senior Associate Dean for Medical Curriculum, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Education, Department of Medicine
University at Buffalo
Infectious Diseases, VA Western New York Healthcare System