“Singing in the Mud”, Message from the Dean

Message from the LSOM Dean

Former UT Chancellor, retired Admiral, and retired Navy Seal William H. McRaven wrote a story in the Washington Post that is worth sharing widely-

“For a would-be Navy SEAL, Hell Week is the worst week of the toughest military training in the world. It is six days of no sleep, constant physical and mental harassment, and one “special day” at the Mud Flats. The Mud Flats are an area between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, where the water comes together and creates a swampy patch of terrain, a muddy bog that tests your determination to be a SEAL.

My training class had been out of the mud for a short period of time when the instructors, looking to weed out the weak of mind and body, ordered the entire group of 55 men back into the bog. The mud consumed each man until there was nothing visible but our heads. We were all exhausted, numb from the cold and desperate to hold on. The instructors told us that we could all leave the mud — if just five men quit. It was the instructors’ way of turning us against each other.

It was apparent that some of the trainees were about to give up. There were still eight hours to go before the sun rose — eight more hours of bone-chilling cold. Several of the students started moving to dry ground; they were ready to quit. And then, one voice began to echo through the night — one voice raised in song. The song was terribly out of tune but sung with great enthusiasm. One voice became two, and two became three, and before long the entire class was singing. The instructors threatened us with more time in the mud if we kept singing, but the singing persisted. Those of us stuck in the mud believed that if one of us could start singing when he was up to his neck in mud, then maybe the rest of us could make it through the night. And we did.

Today, the coronavirus has thrown us all in the mud. We are cold, wet and miserable, and the dawn seems a long way off. But while we should not be cavalier about the dangers of this pandemic, neither should we feel hopeless and paralyzed with fear. Hope abounds.”

As we enter the COVID-19 surge it is even more imperative we stick together, that we are courteous, selfless, and courageous. How do we do that? By singing together, not necessarily in words but in deeds. The vast majority of our residents volunteered for either hospitalist, ER or ICU service if the primary teams become ill. Many retirees and former faculty now in the community have volunteered to come back to help us. The majority of medical students have volunteered to staff many non-patient care, but still essential tasks, such as hotline phone banks and temp screening. The faculty and staff have banded together across departments as never before, with no one complaining they should be in charge. Facing the financial cost of this pandemic, I have not heard one complaint about the belt-tightening that we need to do together. Our hospital partners, UHS and the VA have shared PPE, personnel and policy input. These are the notes and words of a song to me, as we sing in the mud together.

With highest regards,

Robert Hromas, M.D.,
Dean and Professor of Medicine
Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine Dean’s Office
Vice President for Medical Affairs
UT Health San Antonio

Article Categories: News