40 WEILL CORNELL MEDICINE
news of Medical
colleGe and GraduaTe
Albert Einstein has been on my mind a lot lately. The first time he came to my attention
was watching the recent National Geographic biopic on him, “Genius.” Then, a few weeks
later, the newspapers carried a story about two giant black holes enveloping one another
and causing the space-time continuum to wiggle like a bowl of Jell-O—something, apparently, that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity had predicted. Lastly, I had the privilege of attending Weill Cornell Medicine’s 2017 Commencement ceremony. The ceremony was held in Carnegie Hall, and I got to mingle with deans and overseers in the green
room—where, to my surprise, there was a picture of Einstein, in formal attire, among
photos of famous musicians.
I don’t pretend to understand most of what Einstein derived; certainly, the mathematics is
well beyond me. But at college, I spent some time thinking about his theories and how he
came to them. I explored his concept of the “thought experiment” and his oft-quoted remarks that imagination is more important than formal education. And of course, I tried
to wrap my head around concepts like time stopping or a person shrinking as you approach the speed of light. Even harder for me was the notion that space and time are
linked—that there is an arbitrary “arrow” propelling our concept of time in one linear
direction, and that concept is convenient but very likely flawed. But what I tried most to
wrap my head around was his grand and bold attempt to have a unified theory that explained all of Newtonian and atomic physics, as well as electromagnetism and gravity. This
man thought big, and he remains a giant in my mind.
So what a nice surprise to see him benignly looking at me from the wall of the green room
in Carnegie Hall. It brought to mind my own long-past youth, thoughts about his greatness
and grand scale, and the potential of the young people about to come on the stage.
The ceremony was genuinely inspiring. The graduates were diverse in gender, ethnicity, and
aspiration, which demonstrated how far the Medical College has come with respect to being
representative of our society. And the ceremony was held the day after the Medical College
bestowed the Alumni Award of Distinction on a graduate from 1973—making me wonder
which of our new graduates crossing the stage will be an awardee some forty years from now.
Commencement day was a beautiful late spring gift: sunny, warm, and clear, with New
Yorkers dressing for the weather. I took the occasion to walk from my hotel to Carnegie
Hall to enjoy the weather and the excitement that is New York. And on the way I thought
about the challenges the Medical College has in preparing these young people for the next
fifty years of their professional lives.
Intoxicated by the weather and walk, what a timely surprise it was to see Einstein in tails
on the wall backstage. A thought of his that has always stuck with me from my undergraduate days reverberated in my head as I walked out with the faculty to the stage: “There
are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as
though everything is a miracle.”
I invite you to contact me regarding your thoughts about the Alumni Association and its
Stuart Mushlin, MD ’73
President, Weill Cornell Medical College Alumni Association