"But active listening means more than internalizing the needs of any given patient. It more generally refers to being present, being in the moment."

Good afternoon and welcome to the Doctoral Hooding – for the 2017 Adelphi Graduate Class. Welcome to President Riordan, Interim Provost Grogg, Deans and Chairs, the Faculty, Administrators and Staff, Partners, Friends and Families and of course, to the Doctoral Graduates from the College of Nursing and Public Health, the School of Social Work, the Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, and the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education.

Let me begin by expressing how deeply honored and humbled I am for the opportunity to address you today and wish you congratulations on this amazing achievement. It is such a pleasure to see all of the proud parents, siblings, spouses and family members here to celebrate this momentous occasion with us. On behalf on my fellow classmates, I thank you all for the support and guidance you have given us throughout our journey. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Adelphi faculty, professors and staff for their continued dedication towards our success and growth as students. I would personally like to thank the audiology staff here at Adelphi – Dr. Yula Serpanos, Dr. Deborah Senzer, Dr. Janet Schoepflin, and Dr. Ianthe Murad for all of their help in my personal journey. The faculty’s tireless dedication to the best interests of the students continues to amaze me. I will miss them greatly. I won’t miss their yearly, torturous comprehensive examinations- that’s for sure- but I’ll certainly miss their leadership and advice.

Now that I’m finished with the thank yous, I can get to what you’ve all been waiting for: unforgettable words of wisdom from your on your graduation day. But to be honest, I’m not even sure how I ended up at this podium as the keynote speaker. Usually, the phrase keynote speaker at a prestigious event such as this, connotes someone with recognized accomplishments- a Barack Obama, a Steve Jobs, an Ellen Degeneres- but, in an apparent move to cut costs, Adelphi gave you… me, Yonah Orlofsky . If you are looking for a refund on your ticket, you can take that up with the administration after the ceremony. However, I’m still left with the question: why? Granted, I’m an improvement from last year’s speaker, but that’s only because there was no student speaker last year. Nonetheless, why have just a regular student at school deliver the speech? I think I know the answer and it wasn’t about cutting costs. The Adelphi administration realized that this event is about us the graduates. It’s a time to reflect upon what this graduation means – it couldn’t be about any celebrity or politician; it needed to be only about us. So allow me to reflect, as a fellow student and fellow graduate.

We find ourselves at an amazing moment in our lives. Graduation is an exciting but yet thought-provoking day. On the one hand, graduation day forces us to reflect upon the past- at all of our accomplishments up until now. And in reality, we have a lot to feel proud about. Think back to all of the tests, lectures, clinical rotations – the challenges, the anxieties, the stresses. Think back – not just to the past three or four years, but to the totality of our educational experiences until now – think about all we’ve gone through to reach this goal. And, incredibly, we stand here today, finally, with our objective of academic excellence finally met. We stand here today at the pinnacle of our academic success – we’ve received our doctoral degrees – we’ve accomplished our goal – we did it. And we should all take a second to appreciate the magnitude of that statement. Now, as cool as our new title will be – we can’t let it get to our heads. I still wouldn’t be the first person to respond when someone frantically screams “is there a doctor in the house??” But still, we have already achieved so much success.

But graduation day is also about reflecting upon the future. It’s a time to envision what type of professionals we want to be. My studies the past four years have focused on the anatomy and physiology of hearing and the nature of hearing loss. But ironically, what I think has prepared me most for my career as an audiologist is not what I studied about hearing, but what I’ve learned about listening- specifically, the art and skill of active listening. Active listening is about actually engaging with the person speaking to you. The famous poet Ralph Emerson once said “There is a difference between truly listening and waiting for your turn to talk.” I think what he was referring to was – active listening.

In our context, it means putting the patient first, listening before implementing, understanding before executing, diagnosing and treating an individual, not a condition or a disease. It’s about detecting the subtle details that patient or client may not to express to the provider outright. Ultimately, it’s about internalizing the fact that we were given two ears, but only one mouth. Studies show that the average health care professional interrupts his or her client within 18 seconds of the client beginning to speak. That statistic is indicative of an occupation that hears but doesn’t necessarily listen. Those same studies show that those health care professionals who spend more time listening are not only perceived by their patients as more compassionate, but actually are more accurate in their diagnoses and treatments. I think this is intuitive. Hearing is somewhat inconsequential if we as professionals don’t know how to listen.

There’s a story of a man who is lost in a forest. A severe thunderstorm surrounds him, and he’s doing everything in his power to return home. But it’s dark and he simply doesn’t see where to go. Suddenly, there’s a flash of lightning. In that one split second, everything becomes clear, his path home becomes obvious. While it’s dark again, the man uses that one second of light in order to find his way home. Today is our flash of lighting. Everything is clear to us – we know exactly what type of professional we want to be. As we begin our careers it is possible to lose sight of this clarity. We will need to use our memory from our experience at Adelphi as our compass. It’s incumbent upon us to use these moments of clarity as a roadmap for our uncertain future, and to commit ourselves to that future – a future of professionalism, compassion, integrity, and a future of careful and active listening.

But active listening means more than internalizing the needs of any given patient. It more generally refers to being present, being in the moment. So while graduation is a time to reflect upon our past and to anticipate our future, it is primarily a time to celebrate our present. Today is a day to rejoice in the moment. I hope that you will celebrate this remarkable achievement with the ones who you stood by you during this entire endeavor. So on behalf of everyone present here this afternoon, I want to say from the bottom of my heart – congratulations on this incredible accomplishment. Thank You.

For further information, please contact:

Todd Wilson
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