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Mondale on medicine: First and foremost, establish trust

In a lecture at the University of Minnesota last fall, former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale encouraged his audience of largely Medical School faculty and other health-care professionals to above all build trust with those whom they’re serving.

It’s a lesson he learned in his political career, Mondale said, but it also applies to medicine: “I learned that public trust is indispensible to any kind of service.”

Leaders in both medicine and politics should strive to do better than simply comply with the law, he said—they should strive to be ethical.

Mondale addressed a full crowd in the Mayo Memorial Auditorium as the presenter of the first annual David A. Rothenberger Lecture on October 2. The lecture series honors the work of David Rothenberger, M.D., professor and deputy chair of the Department of Surgery, as a leader, surgeon, mentor, and researcher and is meant to stimulate dialogue between health-care professionals and the community at large regarding today’s evolving health-care system.

The lecture also launched the Medical School’s Emerging Physician Leaders Program, a three-year curriculum designed to build skills and prepare participants for future leadership roles.

Drawing from his many years in public service, Mondale offered advice to the crowd on how to deal with the constant challenge and stress from working in a multilayered, complex environment. “Of course, if medicine is like politics, even if reform is accomplished, your practice will continue to be challenging,” he said.

But Mondale urged the audience to tackle the difficult issues, particularly in the area of health-care reform.

“Things can change. Reform can occur. Leadership can make a difference,” he said. “I think almost certainly in the next Congress, we will see legislation introduced and seriously considered that moves profound changes in medicine.”

And to the emerging leaders in the audience, Mondale offered a message of hope. “We now not only depend upon you for our health and our lives, but through your example, many of us hope you could help us improve medicine in America and help restore our belief as Americans in our community and in our shared values of excellence, decency, and service,” he said. “We sure need it.”

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