Medical student Rhett Butler speaks to the crowd with onlookers sitting on stage listening

Medical student instills hope during MD Anderson Convocation

How one student’s history with cancer is inspiring physicians, researchers and patients alike
November 20, 2018

Texas A&M College of Medicine student Rhett Butler was invited to deliver the keynote speech during the 2018 University of Texas MD Anderson Faculty Honors Convocation. One of the most important events of the year for the institution, the 2018 Faculty Honors Convocation honored Issam Read, MD, with the Charles A. LeMaistre, MD, Outstanding Achievement Award in Cancer. Butler delivered an inspirational message of hope, which concluded with a standing ovation.

“Rhett’s speech was directed to those faculty in the audience who work tirelessly, be they a researcher or clinician, toward our mission of ‘Making Cancer History,’” said Karen Fukawa, administrator of the MD Anderson Faculty Senate. “His message very clearly conveyed to them how important their job is, not just for their research or clinical care, but because they give hope to the patients and families.”

After losing a brother to cancer, Butler, a 44-year-old father of two, is dedicating his medical career to serve those with cancer and their caregivers.

When asked why he’s going to medical school at 44, Butler always quotes his late brother, “Because I can.”

Butler believes medical treatment requires a holistic approach from providers that involve not only the patient, but also the family of the patient as well. His message related the story of his younger brother’sbattle with cancer and expressed how important the role compassion and hope played in that journey.

“His message was touching, inspiring and encouraging,” said Wei-Jung Chen, PhD, professor and associate dean for student affairs at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, who also attended the convocation.

In his closing remarks, Butler left with this sentiment: “You choose to take on cancer, of all things, when you could have chosen any area of medicine. Every day, you demonstrate how much conviction and belief you have in what you can accomplish to take care of people with cancer. Why? Because you can and for that, my family thanks you.” Leaving the audience on their feet, his message of hope and compassion will not be forgotten.

To listen to his full speech, click here.

— Mary Leigh Meyer

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