Robert T. Hasty, DO, FACOI, FACP

Advice for Future Medical Students at the Nation’s Newest Medical School

by Robert T. Hasty, DO, FACOI, FACP
ACOI President

March 28, 2024

A time honored tradition at many medical schools is a presentation where the Dean gives advice to the entering medical students on becoming a physician. In preparing for our inaugural class at the Orlando College of Osteopathic Medicine (OCOM), I have often thought about what my advice will be for the freshly-minted medical students at the nation’s newest and most modern medical school. A family member says that I walk in between the raindrops. I don’t know if that is entirely true, but this is my opportunity to share with the next generation of physicians the things that I have learned from others and from the incredible experiences that I have been blessed with having.  

As I grow older, I appreciate that we “stand on the shoulders of giants” and that is why we can see farther. I have taken a deep dive down the road of remembering the sage advice that I have received from so many mentors over the years. My life has been shaped by these incredible human beings. Everyone from Dave Freeborn, my first boss and mentor when I was a kid (and rough around the edges) working at Publix Supermarkets in South Florida, to Gary Merlino, DO, FACOI, FACP, who was my Residency Director at Mount Sinai Medical Center, and so many others who took an active interest in me and made me the physician and leader that I have become. I am sure that my impact on the world would have been much less, if any, without their incredible wisdom and interest in me.

My goal is to provide the following set of general advice principles that would be supportive and helpful to these future physicians and might carry forward the lessons that I learned from my mentors:

Focus on Being the Best Physician

The primary motivation for medical students is to learn the skills and knowledge to be the best and caring physicians that you can be. When we focus our motivation on a bigger purpose, we will achieve outcomes that we could never have dreamt of.  

Practice Evidence-Based Activities to Drive Happiness

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a hospital conference where Neil Pasricha was a keynote speaker and gave an inspiring talk. Neil told the story where he had gone through personal struggles with his first wife and after creating a blog about 1,000 awesome things in the world, he was thrusted into being a happiness guru as a result of his work. He had described taking a deep dive into the evidence of being happy and offered up some evidence-based activities that have been associated with happiness: 30-minutes of outdoor exercise daily, daily positive journaling, engaging in random acts of kindness, mindful meditation, immersion into high-challenge/high-skilled tasks, and reading 20-pages of fiction/day. His book, called the Happiness Equation goes into further details.  

Have Deep Appreciation and Gratitude

Evidence supports that when we practice gratitude, we are more likely to be healthy and happier. There is so much to be grateful for. Being able to go to medical school in America is an incredibly great thing and something that all US medical students can be grateful for. Try to just think about at least one thing each day that you are grateful for. I am personally grateful right now for the Starbucks that I am drinking while I am writing this.

Practice Good Productivity and Organizational Hygiene

Becoming a physician is tremendously hard work. The volume of skills and knowledge that one must attain is quite significant. My advice is to develop excellent organizational habits. Keep an ongoing to-do list and endeavor to complete your to-do list each day. Focus on completing tasks as early as possible to allow you time to excel and to prevent additional stress and challenges when tasks are not done on time.  

Avoid Toxic Behaviors  

We have all been sucked into toxic behaviors in our lives. This can be from other students, colleagues, or coworkers. Going down the toxic behavior pathway can be easy to do and enticing, it leads to far worse things in your personal life than the issues that you might be concerned about in others. Also, don’t do stupid things in real life or on social media. There are too many medical students, residents, and physicians that are not practicing today that you have to ask yourself “what were they thinking” when you look at the the behaviors that led to their predicament.  

Know That You Belong Here

Many medical students go through Imposter Syndrome where they question if they are good enough to be in medical school or if they belong there. Knowing the admissions process at our medical school, I can ensure anyone that was accepted that they got in on their own merit and they belong here. It is up to the individual to perform and to live up to the potential that the medical school saw in you.  

Take Care of Your Wellness

Taking care of yourself during medical school and your professional lives is paramount. This includes both your physical and mental health. All of the hard work and dreams evaporate if your physical or mental health declines. Focus on creating a healthy lifestyle where you exercise and have good mental health habits. Focus on achieving or maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding overindulgence in alcohol, food, or anything else in your life and practice reasonable impulse control. When you are ill, seek help. Give yourself time to heal when you are ill. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.  

Develop Great Relationships with Colleagues  

The quality of your life depends on the quality of the relationships with those around you. Do things to improve the relationships that you have. Zig Ziglar had a great quote: “you can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” You will occasionally encounter people with personality disorders and it is important to avoid them, but the majority of the people that you interact with are good people and will be there for you when you need them, if you treat them well.

Strong Work Ethics

Most people who enter medical school have strong work ethics. It is important to maintain or build your strong work ethics throughout your career. Grit is probably the most important attribute of successful people. I am convinced that so much of my success is due to my strong work ethic and grit (it certainly wasn’t my looks, innate skills, nor was given to me at birth).  

Maintain Family, Friends, and Close Relationships  

In the end, almost everyone who I know feels that family and friends are the most important things in their life. They are your support system and they will be with you on your rainy days. Like all relationships, they don’t come without ongoing maintenance and work. It also requires genuine authenticity and a caring on your part for them as human beings and loved ones. The meaning of your individual lives will be found through them and supported by your professional work and the goodness that you do for others and the world around you.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions on what I should include or modify in my advice to our inaugural medical students, please email me at  


Stay True to Why You Pursued Medicine.