Graduation Livestream Replay
2024 Graduation Events
Cabarrus College of Health Sciences Commencement
Saturday, May 4, 2024
Ceremony starts at 10 a.m. - Gates open at 8:30 a.m.
Atrium Health Ballpark
LAMDBA NU and PHI THETA KAPPA Induction Ceremony
Louise Harkey School of Nursing Capping & Pinning Ceremony
Master of Occupational Therapy Pinning Ceremony
Order Official Photo Prints
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Chief Academic Officer and Executive Vice President, Advocate Health
Chief Executive Officer, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist
Executive Vice President for Health Affairs, Wake Forest University
Be the Spark!
Hello Class of 2023! I’m Julie Freischlag, Chief Academic Officer of Advocate Health, Chief Executive Officer of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and Executive Vice President of Wake Forest University.
It is such a pleasure to be at Cabarrus College of Health Sciences commencement today to celebrate the 224 students graduating from this incredible institution. And it is especially exciting to be here as part of your Advocate Health family.
You all represent such a diverse cross-section of nursing and allied health professions. It’s amazing to think of the skills, talent, expertise – and enthusiasm – gathered right here in this ballpark, right now!
Today is about possibility! You are about to take the next important step in your medical careers. You’ve been through studying, exams, lots of coffee and late nights – and even a pandemic along the way. But YOU made it! I can see the excitement, joy – and relief – bright on your faces!
I thought about you when I was at the Bruce Springsteen concert a few weeks ago. He played one of his classics – Dancing in the Dark. And as he sang, “You can’t start a fire without a spark,” I thought about how true this is, especially for today’s rising health care professionals.
I’m a vascular surgeon, and I truly believe – even after 30 years of practice – that caring for patients is rewarding and fulfilling. And right now, in this moment in medicine, I also believe that the possibilities to be the spark – and make a difference for our patients and communities – are real and tremendous.
We are finally on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic – we know change is needed and we can’t return to how things used to be. I like to say, “What’s COVID-19 done for me lately?” It’s showed us that we need telehealth and hospital at home programs – and improved access to care for those living in underserved communities. We need enhanced well-being programs to support our teams. And we need healthier communities for EVERYONE.
That’s what I want to talk about today – how we do can dare to do the hard things – and BE THE SPARK that brings positive change fueled by courage, compassion and imagination.
When I was seven, my grandfather gave me some advice that has guided me since. He said: “Julie, there are going to be people who say you can’t do things in your life. When they say you can’t, show them YOU CAN.”
And he was right. I was overlooked for leadership positions, I didn’t match at my top choice for residency training, and I was told several times in my first role as a Chair of Surgery that “I just didn’t fit in.” For 11 years, I was the only female Chair at Johns Hopkins. I felt so out of place that I wore dark colors for the first year to blend in. Anyone who knows me knows that this is not me - I love bright colors!
You will no doubt have stumbles and setbacks too – they are part of the hard things we go through. But you can and will overcome! I want to share a few lessons I’ve learned along the way that have helped me as a leader and doctor – and I hope they help you too.
One of my mottos is: Say “yes” when you can – and definitely more than you say “no.” When an opportunity arises, we won’t have all the answers. But we can ask ourselves questions to help us take smart risks. For me, these North Star questions are: what will I learn, how will this help other people, and are my values – and those of my organization – front and center?
Starting with this moment, YOU are shaping your story. You are lighting the way. Think how you will approach smart risk taking and the culture you will build to inspire it.
That leads me to the next point - know your team! Look around you. Your classmates mean everything. And the teams we surround ourselves with mean everything.
Leading a team – and being part of a team – means really knowing the team. Check in with each other – and care for each other. Call your team by their first names, learn about their families, friends, passions and hobbies.
I always start surgery the same way, by asking everyone on the team – the nurses, techs and anesthesiologists – to introduce themselves by first name. Each member of the care team is vital – no matter their role – and doing this reminds everyone in the room of the level playing field. Everyone knows their contribution is important and that we are all working together AS ONE for the patient.
And, as you grow with your teams, I encourage you to raise your hand high to name others for opportunities. Give diverse voices – especially those that often aren’t heard – a seat at the table so they are supported and elevated. The value of inclusion is incredible.
I also encourage you to practice “real toughness” as you take on opportunities ahead.
I read about this concept in a book called “Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness.” It is written by Steve Magness, a performance athlete and coach.
He describes real toughness as different than what we might think. It’s not about ego. We aren’t beating our chests or flexing our muscles to show old-school toughness. But we are developing resilience from the inside out – being strong on the inside and flexible on the outside. We might have to change our pace in challenging times, moving slower or faster, but our inner strength, our toughness, is always there moving us forward.
Recently, on this same author’s social media, he shared that the small things we do can get us 99% of the way to the hard things that we want to achieve. These really resonated with me. They are:
- Show up
- Work hard
- Strive for consistency over perfection
- Find joy in what you do
- Go on the journey with friends
And I would add one more – treat your patients exactly the way you or your family members would want to be treated.
Lastly, as you take the next step, I know you will be busy, but remember to recharge. This is so important. Does a quick text to a friend energize you? Or maybe a morning run? Whatever it is, make it part of your routine and flex when you don’t have time. Even walking the steps to my office can give me an extra boost on especially busy days. Have a small “mini moment” and check in with yourself. It makes all the difference in how we care for others.
It has been such a pleasure to talk with you today. As you take the next step in your journey in healthcare, see the possibility and BE THE SPARK.
I already know you are, because I can feel your energy and enthusiasm here today.
Do the hard things, lead opportunity – and light the way with compassion, inclusion, imagination and courage.
The future of healthcare is strong, bright, bold and brilliant for the Class of 2023. Congratulations on your incredible achievement at Cabarrus College of Health Sciences and best wishes on your continued success. Enjoy this very special day with your family and friends!