Lessons in Awareness and Gratitude

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

I want to thank the Department of Communication for this honor. My Bachelor of Arts in Communication provided me a sound foundation to move forward in my educational pursuits certainly, but even more importantly this university, department, and the people whom comprised my experience at the University of Cincinnati did nothing less than save my life.


Current students - one of the key lessons I have learned is you first have to show up. Engagement and caring never go out of style, nor do they change depending on your field or role. Always show up. Alumni – I am always proud to say I graduated from UC, and am proud to be among you. Faculty – Drs. Zoller, Haas, and Lisa Newman certainly played prominent roles in my personal and professional life while at UC. I thank each of you for the individual lessons and time you have shared with me during and post- graduation. If more people took the time that you do to listen, provide feedback, and support others whom may not have your body of knowledge this world may be a better place.


Pictured: Lisa Newman and Julie Idoine-Fries

When I say this place saved my life; I am referencing an accident which occurred in the summer between my Junior and Senior years. While driving cross country with two other UC students I was involved in a car accident in which I was driving, and one of my dearest friends was killed. While in the hospital Lisa Newman called to let me know she loved me. Ann and Karol did the same, all of my friends, classmates, professors sent me messages of love, support and encouragement… so that I was able to start that fall quarter on time, without missing an academic beat.


Physically and personally it was much more difficult. Physically, due to our women’s rowing team, I have recovered with nothing more than a body full of scars to let you know I was in a fatal accident. Personally, there were and are difficult days. I wish my friend, Matt, could be here tonight. He would be in the back row because he would be late, then we’d go to Murphy’s to laugh and recount the same stories for the umpteenth time.


Every single person in this department made sure to check on me during my senior year. Dr. Haas and I created my honors thesis around my healing and support group experiences and each of my professors made sure I was supported as I applied for graduate school. I am aware of how lucky I am in many dimensions of my life, and am grateful to this department for pushing me to keep moving forward.


I share this story for two reasons; First, I’ve never felt I appropriately thanked this department, specifically many of the people in this room, and university for what they did for me, and I honestly may never feel I completely pay back what was given, but perhaps it’s a start. Second, you may never know what another person is going through, has gone through, or may have ahead of them. Healthcare communication provides the framework for how we should care for one another to communicate compassion, empathy and gratitude. For the students in the room – I want you know that our days may not always go as planned. However, if you invest in the community you find yourself in; the professors in this room, this university, your work, your family, your partner, you will never go it alone.


The quote or sentiment I have chosen to live my life by was shared by Dana Reeve, the wife of Christopher Reeve as she was dying from lung cancer at age 44; “Some choices will choose you; how you decide to live with those choices will define the context of your life”. Continue investing in this department, in the internship and work opportunities presented to you and define what the context of your life will be.


I came to UC knowing I wanted to get my Masters in Health Administration due to my work as a dietary aide in a nursing home while in high school, but it then became a deeply personal drive. Through this field I share my gratitude for life, and recognize its fleeting nature. Within the different healthcare environments we may experience some of, if not the best and worst days of our life. Some of the lessons I am always in the process of learning include:

· Treat every person with respect. I mean every person. Every team member matters. You may feel compelled to care for some more than others, but we all need each one another. The janitor, the physician, the nurse, the nursing assistant. Practice cognitive complexity. Be open and aware to what each person brings to the role he or she plays.

· Learn people’s names. I forget in which class I learned this, but our favorite sound is the sound of our own names. The more you learn, use, and reference people by them the more likely you are to form respectful relationships with substance. In my day-to-day I also focus on the number of times I say ‘patient’ versus ‘human’, ‘person’, ‘community member’, etc. It’s vitally important to call and reference people by names that acknowledge their humanity and our connectedness.

· Practice emotional contagion by exuding joy. The CEO of the health system I worked for in Texas, JPS Health, had 3 rules; 1. Own it 2. Seek Joy 3. Don’t be a Jerk. Imagine if each of us consciously went through each day seeking joy, owning our faults and focusing on kindness? If something has to go viral, why not those?

· Watch what you may project of yourself and in others. This was a favorite lesson of mine from Dr. Boys – perception is reality and projection can be a dangerous thing. Be aware of each person as an individual and the inherit flaws, human-ness, and need for connection we all have.

· And finally, work your tail off, never say so, work the late hours, do the hard tasks, and remember to show up! Take what is put in front of you and make it the absolute best that you can. There is no substitute for time and dedication as unfortunate as that may be at times, but the dividends, relationships and impact they yield are unparalleled.


Lisa Newman congratulates Julie Idoine-Fries as she accepts the Outstanding Communication Alumni Award

I am exceptionally grateful to be receiving this honor from the Department. I accidentally signed up for Lisa’s Careers in Communication my first quarter at UC and was shown endless possibilities of what could be. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by friends and mentors whom were effusive in their support. Seeing me through the most humbling of days. There were very few blinders placed on me while I was here and it allowed me to question, reach, and grow. I was made acutely aware of the need for effective communication practices across all industries and roles.


The really hard and great thing about this degree is the breadth of opportunities it provides. When everyone needs your services, how do you define your scope?! I have found the ability to appropriately share emotion, build sound relationships and trust as the result of effective verbal, visual, physical communication to make all the difference. Please remember; Treat every person with respect; Learn people’s names; Practice emotional contagion; Watch what you may project of yourself and in others; and Work your tail off! I have numerous didactic lessons from this department.


More importantly, though, are the lessons in gratitude and awareness that were shared. This is university and department hold very special places in my heart and I will do my best to be worthy of this honor. With sincerity, thank you!

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© 2020 by Kevin Must