Dear guests, I want to welcome you all.
This, as we have said several times, is a special day for us, The opening of the academic year is special when we are all full of enthusiasm of this restart but an academic year that is in its thirtieth anniversary is even more special. We wanted to make the thirtieth anniversary solemn by awarding the first honorary Doctorate in Medicine from this University.
After graduating generations of students, we have identified Sami Modiano as the recipient of the first honorary degree. This emerges from a profound process of reflection by the academic community which is consistent with the principles, values that led to the founding of this University thirty years ago, and our desire to remain consistent with those principles and values and to continue our profound growth. anchored to our roots.
The process that led to the attribution of this Honorary degree saw the participation of the entire academic community but precisely because of the high value it assumed we decided to also involve authorities in the field of Medicine, so that they could vote together with us in this process. The people we consulted gave full support, in particular we consulted: Dr. Gasbarrone, president of the Lancisiana Academy, Professor Carlo Patron member of the Accademia dei Lincei, former Professor of Pharmacology at the Catholic University, Professor Saverio Stranges Professor of Epidemiology at the Schulich School of Medicine London Ontario (Canada) and they too have reached our conclusion.
The reasons for awarding Sami Modiano a medical degree are not immediately clear. Sami Modiano has never practiced healthcare, he has not done basic research that could have led to an advancement of knowledge in the medical field and therefore it is legitimate to ask what motivated us. Let's start from the story of Sami Modiano:
Born in 1930 Sami Modiano was a happy child surrounded by a wonderful family and community on the island of Rhodes. This happy childhood was soon ruined first by the racial laws and then by the war. At the age of thirteen he experienced deportation, the horror of the concentration camp. He saw his sister, his father and many other people who were his companions in misfortune die in the concentration camp. Sami is among the few survivors and at the end of this experience he returns to "normal" life with work and family at the center first. That dramatic experience seems to be behind us, forgotten. But after 60 years, that wound that had never closed has reopened and Sami Modiano discovers the need to tell and bring out everything he had inside. He tells it with this beautiful book entitled "This is why I lived" and tells this experience in a very direct way, without frills, without mincing words but in an essential way that makes us see in an all too realistic way the pain, the suffering that she was in a concentration camp. Faced with these errors, this profound suffering and this desperation, we are all shocked but it is food for thought on the value of life, the immediate reflection is to understand how much human life is worth and that is It is necessary to do everything possible to combat what can threaten human life.
In fact this is the path of a medical student, this is also the basis of an exercise of the medical profession, knowing human suffering first and foremost and trying to find a way to alleviate suffering or when there is no possibility of accompanying death , but a deep understanding of human suffering is necessary to be a doctor. Sami talks to us about a very particular human suffering, a suffering caused by human beings themselves, to their fellow men and this obviously brings to mind, to our attention, the wars which unfortunately are current today, rampant but also other dramatic circumstances. Let's think about feminicides, about the choice of men to take the lives of their wives and partners, who have only one responsibility: not wanting to be an object. I believe that it is necessary today to reflect on these causes of suffering and death that originate from man. It is necessary to develop preventive medicine in this direction too, to put an end to these useless, absurd deaths, exactly like those caused by the Nazis. This effectiveness of the story is the first reason why we decided to award this degree to Sami Modiano.
The other important element is the way in which Sami tells us about his suffering, he does it in a very direct, simple way. He tells us that we can talk about suffering and, indeed, that talking about suffering is therapeutic. Making this suffering emerge from the depths of the human soul allows us to understand it and give it meaning, to face it. For Sami Modiano it is to give testimony about everything that happened but that is what we must also do for our patients. Patients with advanced forms of cancer often say that as the disease progresses, as hopes diminish, the relationship with the doctor is somehow lost and communication is interrupted. There is a strong difficulty on the part of doctors today, it seems, to talk about pain and death and this places our patients in a tunnel, in a deserted island which one does not have the courage to enter and this is a theme of communication in medicine truly current. I am reminded of an article that recently appeared in the New York Times about artificial intelligence and the use that doctors make of it. One could imagine that this powerful tool would be used to support the diagnosis and choice of the most effective therapy; instead, it was found that the applications of artificial intelligence most used by doctors are those aimed at finding the right words to communicate to patients an unfortunate diagnosis, which leaves no hope. We have lost the ability to communicate, we create a curtain of silence that makes the suffering man even more desperate in the face of pain and death. Sami teaches us that it is possible and that we can talk about suffering. This model of a doctor capable of communicating is precisely the project that we propose to our students.
The third and most important contribution that makes Sami Modiano a doctor is his ability to find the path that can lead from an almost certain and obvious death to life. Sami was several times one step away from death and indeed, in a moment of particular desperation, he had decided to spontaneously abandon himself to death. We read in his book: "I would have done like everyone else: I would have clung to the barbed wire to be electrocuted to end it all". Fortunately, he decided at the last moment to cling to life and fight to survive. This moment of extreme desperation, this desire for a death seen as liberation, makes us think of euthanasia which unfortunately is becoming more and more widespread, the idea that a man can be freed from suffering by taking his life. This is not the doctor's task, the doctor cannot take away life, he must be close by and when death is inevitable he must accompany the person. This is palliative care, it is very important to experience this moment of closeness to the patient. This Sami Modiano managed to do on himself, and that is precisely what a doctor must do: give strength to the suffering human being in need of care to cling to life, he must promote an alliance with the patient that supports him on the path therapeutic, so that this is effective, shared. Sami Modiano's book is precisely a metaphor of the journey from death to life, his resilience reminds us that the doctor has a more complex and higher task than the simple administration of therapies: in the most critical moments his task, his duty, is to help the patient cling to life. In conclusion, the popular work and even more the life of Sami Modiano reflect the essence of Medicine and of being a Doctor.
The promotion of the value of life and a profound reflection on suffering and its causes, which are at the center of the message that Sami Modiano continues to transmit to entire generations, represent the fulcrum of the path that leads to training in the practice of the medical profession. Only by developing a profound knowledge of what can cause pain and death can one develop the skills necessary to become a doctor worthy of the name.
For all these reasons the Faculty of Medicine ofUniversità Campus Bio-Medico di Roma chose to confer an honorary degree in Medicine and Surgery to Samuel Modiano.