Message from Stan: Lisa Mellman

Dear faculty, staff and students,
One of the highlights (and there were many) of the events during commencement weekend was the keynote address by Dr. Lisa Mellman (MED81), a distinguished and valued alumna of our school who has led a remarkable career as an extraordinary leader in medical education and psychiatry.

Her message is not just relevant to our new graduates but also for each of us to reflect on, and I would like to highlight some of the key points.
She began her message to our newly graduated medical students with three simple words, "I love maps."
Dr. Mellman continued, "I love maps because I love seeing how paths are forged, and their parts are linked, how it all comes together to make an interconnected whole. But more than that, what I love is being able to see how a path that started in one place can lead to another. The way everything connects and how there is no one way to arrive at any destination."
As a psychiatrist, a psychoanalyst and a senior associate dean for student affairs dean at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, she has dedicated her career to helping others find their path. Sharing her own journey, she outlined the three core tenets that have emerged as her guiding principles.

  • First, to understand that careers are built from the intersection of passion and opportunity and a little bit of luck. For Dr. Mellman, this intersection of passion and opportunity occurred unexpectedly during her psychiatry clerkship, and this experience would later shape her career. Assigned to a psychiatric unit that was not staffed by any residents, she embraced the opportunity to work with the attending to have primary patient-facing responsibility and autonomy. To her great surprise, her plans to become a surgeon would be abandoned as her passion for unraveling and understanding the mysteries of complex psychiatric disorders would be revealed.
  • Second—with humility—to be a lifelong learner and willing to try a new lens. She shared that prior to 2020, she thought she understood racial injustice and inequity, how it is expressed, and how it impacts our patients, community and students of color. In retrospect, this understanding, she now recognizes, was from a limited perspective. In our conversations, she was clear that all of us need additional focus on both addressing and eliminating health inequities in our communities and in our educational environment, and we need to embrace pathway programs that encourage a very diverse student interest in medicine.
  • And third to find and nurture the things that sustain you because the juggle of career and life is real and unending. Dr. Mellman emphasized the importance of being mindful of mental health and recognizing that the social and emotional toll of the pandemic and the uncertainty of the world have and will continue to affect all of us. It is not short-lived, and its toll will continue to affect our communities, peers, students, families, patients and yourself, she said. In my mind, her clarity was profound.

I encourage you to listen to Dr. Mellman's keynote address which begins just before the second hour (yes I know we ran long, but every minute is worth a listen) of the recording.
Each of us has our own unique path. As Dr. Mellman reflects, it is at the intersection of those paths where, through knowledge and discovery, we will improve our patients' health, train the next generation of physicians and scientists and discover the mysteries and treatments of serious diseases. So acknowledge the detours and unexpected turns when they present themselves and look at them as a chance to learn something in a different way.

Thank you, 

Stan Gerson, MD
Dean and Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs
School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University
Director, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center (acting)
Director, National Center for Regenerative Medicine