Thank you, Dr Jaggar, for inviting me to be here tonight. I am very honoured and it’s wonderful to be back.
I’m so proud of all the High Boys for their achievements. It really makes me smile. Whenever an Old Boy like me visits, you should never be afraid to come and talk to us. Because we were once you. And you should never doubt for a second that, one day, you can actually be us. The only difference between you and a person like me is time. We’re just at different stages in the great circle of life. And there is every chance that each of you will be far more successful than what people think I have become.
This is a boys’ school so I’m going to assume you’ve all watched ‘Star Wars’. It’s like what Yoda says to Luke Skywalker in ‘The Last Jedi’ while they’re sitting there watching the Jedi tree burn down. “Luke, we are what they (that’s you) grow beyond”. Now Yoda then said that this was the “burden of all masters”, but I would say that what you do becomes the legacy and the pride of all parents, teachers and all of us old boys. So, from all of us, I want to say this: Well done! And keep going!
I was asked to share a little bit about my journey as a doctor especially as some of you are considering it as a career. I’m a cardiologist, which means I’m a doctor who specialises in the diagnosis and medical treatment of disorders of the cardiovascular system, so that means the heart as well as the big arteries and veins of the body. I love my job. I look after patients in my rooms at Bondi Junction and at St Vincent’s Hospital. I also do medical research at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.
There are so many branches in medicine that it doesn’t matter what your interests are or what sort of personality you have, I’m pretty sure there’s something in medicine that will be suitable for you. But when I talk to students about doing medicine, I always provide what we in our profession call informed consent. And because most of you are still under 18, that means you fall under paediatrics, so I’m going to have to consent your parents as well. A doctor’s job comes with a warning. It’s a long road. There’s usually at least 6 years of university study until you graduate from your first medical degree. Then you start working, but there’s also somewhere between 5-10 years of postgraduate training. I got my first job as a doctor at the age of 25, as an intern at Prince of Wales Hospital. But you move up the ranks quickly. When I was 27, I was a registrar in the ICU. I entered cardiology specialty training at St Vincent’s Hospital just before I turned 29. It’s a 3-year program, as long as a bachelor’s degree. I got my first specialist qualification (that’s the FRACP) when I was 32, 15 years after I left here. When I was 33, I started my 2-year term as the Chief Resident at St Vincent’s, and also became a cardiologist working in various hospitals and clinics around Sydney and NSW. And the learning never stops. But it’s a fulfilling job because you always get to learn new things and help people along the way.
You may ask yourself – do you have what it takes to be a doctor? Or a successful person in any profession? And the answer is yes! You learn it here.
If you haven’t realised it yet, one day you will realise that there is a much deeper lesson to be found between the lines of ink in each class syllabus.
I think the best life lesson I ever learnt from school was from my time in the 1st Grade Cross Country Team. Life is a very long cross country race with no finish line. You have to learn to run at your pace. There will be people who are faster than you and also people slower. You can look at them if you want, but you need to focus on yourself and know your own capabilities and limitations. There are many hills to climb during life. And lots of mud. You need to see the big picture. It’s not about how fast you’re going right now. But that you actually get there in the end.
You can also learn a lot from being part of a concert band. I used to sit in the second flute section. Some of the most successful businessmen I know sat in various seats in our band. And it’s not hard to see why. Because if you think about it, a concert band is made up of lots of people doing different things, but all working from the same playbook. Learning to complement each other, to be in harmony, knowing when it’s the right time to stick their neck out and when to blend right in. It’s a very good metaphor for how teams should work not only in health care but also in the corporate world.
I have a special message for the High boys in the room tonight, a message brought to you by your parents. Be nice to your parents and teachers. You owe everything to them. You’ll realise it one day once you have kids and you’re carting them to their various co-curricular activities while you’re trying to balance work, family and whatever else you’re trying to do. To the prize recipients, I want you to really enjoy tonight but I also don’t want you to let this define you. Life is not about chasing grades. To the guys receiving prizes for sports, cocurricular activities and character, you have already demonstrated that you are learning some really important lessons that may make a big difference out there in the real world.
I’ll close with this: For everyone in the room, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t get a prize this year, or even in the years to come. Because, in the end, you will realise that these prizes count for very little in the great lottery of life. It’s the learning that is the point. And what really matters is that you went to this school: a place where you can learn just about anything … a place where you can learn from absolutely everything; that no matter what you bring home tonight, everyone is a winner. Because by the time you leave here, and even if you don’t realise it yet, you will hopefully have learnt the lessons that will help you find your place in this world on the path unwinding. That is, and will always be, the true lesson and the ultimate gift of an education at High.
I look forward to hearing about your achievements both at school and in the world beyond, and I’d really like to thank the School for having me back.