St. Ambrose has helped ‘light a path’ for graduates


By Anne Marie Amacher

Graduates from St. Ambrose University in Davenport listen to Dr. Richard Wood give the commencement speech during the commencement ceremony at the i wireless Center in Moline, Ill., on May 12

MOLINE, Ill. – There is no guidebook to chart your way, but St. Ambrose University has helped light a path for you, Dr. Richard Wood told St. Ambrose University graduates last week. A 1958 graduate of St. Ambrose College in Davenport and a transplant surgery pioneer, Dr. Wood gave the commencement address May 12 at the i wireless Center in Moline.
Dr. Wood commented on the changes in technology that have occurred since he was a student. When he was at St. Ambrose “the only telephone was a landline phone. It was long distance to call to Moline (from Davenport). Fifty-four years later I hold in my pocket a phone. It has 28 books, the Bible of course, a library and many things you know better than I,” he said as he held up his cell phone.
He said when he began his medical career doctors were just learning how to stop the heart, fix what was wrong “and hope it started again.”
Heart surgery at that time took 10 hours and 14 units of blood. The sophisticated prescription drugs that are available today weren’t available then.  “It shows we were pioneers and learned as we went.” Today the same heart surgery takes 2 ½ hours, uses two units of blood and can be done in small town hospitals, not just the university and teaching center, he said.
Looking toward the future, he sees a day when surgery will be done remotely.
Dr. Wood also talked about organ transplants. Early in his career, long before the Internet, he could only ask fellow physicians about options. “Today I can go to the Internet and get input fast and options from around the world.”
But he told the graduates that ethical decisions and issues need to be addressed with all the breakthroughs in technology today.
The median life expectancy when he became a physician was 66 years old for a male. Today it is 76. He noted “someone has to pay for those extra years.”
Tough decisions need to be made today with people living longer and also experiencing more medical conditions. He addressed stem cells, transplants and end-of-life decisions as well.
“Let’s connect the dots. No matter what field you are in today, technology will change it. Protect your character.
“St. Ambrose gave you the tools in faith. Keep your priorities straight,” he said.
He also encouraged the graduates to keep in touch with God and seek guidance from him. And accept the support of their families.
“God bless you, the class of 2012.”
Dr. Wood received an honorary degree from Bishop Martin Amos, bishop of the Diocese of Davenport, and Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, president of St. Ambrose University.
Following the address, degrees were conferred on 475 bachelor’s, 225 master’s and eight doctoral students.

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