A Thirty Year Anniversary, And I Missed It

This summer I have been a doctor for thirty years, and I just realized I missed the anniversary of my medical school graduation. Actually, it almost seems fitting that I did, because of how it all happened.

I had one of the best medical educations you can get, but there was a total lack of pomp and circumstance at Uppsala University. Any form of celebration of academic achievement occurred after hours and off campus, usually within the highly regulated social clubs called “Nations”. They were started hundreds of years ago when students from all over Sweden came to Uppsala to study and needed ways to stay in touch with people from their own provinces. Students traditionally found room and board with private families in Uppsala, and the “Nations” were meeting places and social support providers for them.

As far as I know, students still have to register with one of the “Nations” when they enroll at Uppsala University.

When I started medical school I was a very serious young man – too serious, I have since realized. When it came time for me to choose which “Nation” to register with, I chose the one that was only perfunctory, charged only a nominal fee and never had any events. Instead of spending my free time with other students, I sat in my one bedroom apartment and read books from the “Doctor in the house” series, which follows a zany group of British medical students through school and internship.

At the end of my last semester, a hot summer day in 1979, I remember putting the contents of my locker in a plastic grocery store bag and riding my bicycle home to my apartment at the outskirts of town. Instead of the kind of diploma my American colleagues proudly display on their office walls, a brief letter arrived in the mail a few weeks later, stating that it was proof of my medical license. In one corner was a red stamp, certifying that the three-dollar administrative fee had also been collected.

It wasn’t much of a ceremony, so it never stuck in my mind. I’m not even sure how to answer when I occasionally get asked for my medical school graduation date – the day I emptied my locker or the day I got the certificate in the mail?

I guess the glory in my case comes from doing what I set out to do when I was about four years old. I never counted the days or the years. I just carry on.

1 Response to “A Thirty Year Anniversary, And I Missed It”


  1. 1 Steph August 18, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Well, BELATED congratulations!

    I’m very envious of your medical training. If I could wind back the clock (a very long way), I’d love to lock myself away to study pure medicine. That’s my idea of heaven.

    Go spoil yourself with a well-earned treat! 😀


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