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Reunion Reflections - Class of 1976
By Robert A. Beltran, M.D., M.B.A., FACMQ - President - Latino Med Policy Institute

I wish to mischievously suggest that our Class of 1976 created and expresses the “maverick spirit” that is alive and well at the USC Keck School of Medicine. This spirit is the fuel for creativity and innovation that drives change in today’s world of medicine.

To Americans, imbued with the frontier spirit, a maverick is an admirable person, independent in thought and action. A masterless person: one person who is roving and causal. This is meant as a compliment.

This maverick voice is unconventional, off-the-wall serving as a source of fresh thinking and innovation. Our in-house individualism challenges the status quo from the first day we started medical school to the current medical practices we lead.

Today’s world of medicine may be ready for this type of “open source” creativity. Some may see this as a defiant act, a bold, idealistic, declaration of faith in the principles of individualism.

Tapping into this truly distinctive collective class mind-set gives our class a maverick mission statement: A class with a distinctive and disruptive sense of purpose that sets us apart from our rivals. As a class we will not seek nor accept the proposition that we are unable to make a positive difference for our patients in today’s and tomorrow’s world of medicine.

As graduation was soon approaching, we all had one last test to pass- “The Chiff Test.” Chiff stands for “clever, high-quality, innovative, friendly and fun.” I am happy to report that we all passed this test with flying colors as was demonstrated by the testimonies each of us gave during our reunion.

This spirit of maverick innovation demands an unusual kind of leadership, combining personal confidence with intellectual humility. No room for a “know-it-all” style of leadership. This means embracing diversity and imposing limits on ones ego. We continue to be insatiable learners.

Our experiences have developed many of us into highly effective leaders. Effective leaders are ones who learn the most by interacting with people whose interests, backgrounds and experience are the least like theirs.

Ask yourself: “Why would great people want to come to Keck? Is Keck set up to recognize great people when they see them?” Our answer that evening was a resounding and unanimous affirmation that the Keck School of Medicine is maverick friendly and allows great people to perform to their highest potential.

Since the Class of 1976 planted the seed of the maverick spirit, Keck has been cited for exploring ways of capturing and channeling creativity and innovation into mainstream medicine.

Our class has encouraged future medical students at Keck to create their own boundless enthusiasm for the maverick spirit. This maverick approach has worked well for the Class of 1976. I encourage you to consider making a year-end donation to your Class Year Scholarship fund to help future generations carry on this Maverick Spirit!

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