“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”
– Dolly Parton, American singer- songwriter, actress, philanthropist and entrepreneur

Spring Commencement has always been one of my favorite events of the year. It gives us the opportunity to recognize, on a grand scale, the achievements of our amazing students and the start of the next chapter in the story of their lives. This spring, we celebrated our newest cohort of College of Medicine graduates — more than 800 strong — and sent them out into the world to continue their journeys of personal growth and discovery. This included nearly 200 medical students in one of the most talented and diverse graduating classes in the college’s history. This month, our graduating residents and fellows will celebrate the conclusion of their training and embark on the next phase of their careers. Collectively, these events are the highlight of the academic year.

As they embark on this new beginning, our graduates will seek to answer an age-old question we have all asked ourselves at least once: Why am I here and what am I meant to do? Or, more succinctly, what is my purpose?

Purpose is a powerful motivator for those who have it, and a source of stress, anxiety and burnout for those who do not. Studies have shown time and again that having a strong sense of purpose — which can be derived from any passion that brings happiness and value to your life — has physical and emotional benefits that lead to longer, happier existences.

Individuals who live with purpose and meaning often have stronger immune systems, lower incidence of disease and faster recovery from surgery. They are more joyful, find greater professional success and benefit from more restful sleep. They even see the world differently, viewing challenges as more surmountable than those who have not cultivated a strong sense of purpose in their daily lives.

In Japan, there is a term for this type of purposeful living, called ikigai, which roughly translates to “reason for being,” or your reason for getting up in the morning. This concept has been cited as a major contributor to the significantly longer than average healthy life expectancies for Japanese men (81 years) and women (87 years).

At the College of Medicine and the Wexner Medical Center, our purpose is our tripartite mission — and one-third of that mission is devoted to helping our learners in their pursuit of purpose. Finding the intersection where a learner’s values connect with what they love to do and what they are good at doing is the sweet spot — their ikigai. However, discovering and fulfilling that purpose is not a one-time thing and it does not end at commencement or completion of training. Rather, it is a lifelong endeavor with infinite possibilities that evolve just as we do.

I would encourage everyone, and especially our new graduates, to heed the advice of living musical legend Dolly Parton who, at age 77, has herself evolved and found purpose in new passions throughout her acclaimed career: “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”


Carol Bradford

Carol Bradford, MD, MS
Dean, College of Medicine
Leslie H. and Abigail S. Wexner Dean’s Chair in Medicine
Vice President for Health Sciences, Wexner Medical Center