Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898 | SUBSCRIBE

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

John Harvard's Journal | Commencement 2009

"If You Love Rats"

An excerpt from an address by Stephen Bergman ’66, M.D. ’73

July-August 2009

Stephen Bergman ’66, M.D. ’73, writing as Samuel Shem, published a novel, The House of God, in 1978—a biting comedy about the lives of medical interns, among whom it remains immensely popular. It has not always been so kindly received within the medical hierarchy. So it was a surprise that Bergman, who spent decades on the Medical School faculty, teaching psychiatrists-in-training at McLean Hospital, was named the school’s Class Day speaker. This excerpt is from his introduction.


In rough economic times like these, perhaps we should offer a prayer of thanksgiving—how thankful we are that you are not graduating from business school. Healthcare is a glorious profession. It is so broad that each of you will find a job. If you love people and hate rats and molecules, you can be a clinician. If you love rats and molecules and are not so hot with people, a researcher. If neither, and you like travel to exotic places to help millions of people, public health or politics. And if, like me, you are a Jewish doctor who can’t stand the sight of blood, there’s always psychiatry.