Student Perspective: Roy Walton Pharm.D. ’22, on Professional Integrity

Roy Walton speaks during the UConn School of Pharmacy Professionalism Ceremony
Roy Walton speaks to the P1 and P2 classes at the professionalism ceremony on October 12, 2019. Sophia Hanisch (R) and Leanne Varga (L) are in the background. (photo Thomas Hurlbut for UConn)

Roy Walton, Pharm.D. ’22 and staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force’s 118th airlift squadron,  spoke at the School of Pharmacy Professionalism Ceremony on October 12th. Roy was one of three pharmacy students who spoke to peers and guests attending this ceremony designed to reinforce the importance of a professional identity founded on integrity, ethical behavior, and honor. His speech is reprinted below:

Roy Walton, second from left, and fellow airmen in Southwest Asia summer 2019. (photo via Roy Walton)

I have been asked to speak to you today as a member of the Dean’s professionalism committee. I suppose you’ve figured it out by now, but at today’s Professionalism Ceremony us members of the Professionalism Committee will be discussing professionalism. I have the distinct privilege of going first. I’m supposed to share the meaning of professionalism with you. I could pursue an old cliche by starting with the definition listed in the Merriam Webster dictionary but that’s what’s expected, so let’s do something different.

I’d like to share some of my personal experiences, as will my peers, regarding professionalism. I will be discussing the importance of professional integrity.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with me, I have had the privilege of serving in the United States Air Force for the past five years. During this time I have deployed to the Middle East twice, as an air crew member on board C130 cargo aircraft. As recently as September 1st I was operating in some of the most inhospitable regions of the world. The climate alone tests a man’s willpower with temperatures climbing to 120 degrees. Over there maintainers work 12 hour days in the sun to ensure airworthy aircraft and aircrew fly 16 hour missions to ensure vital supplies reach those who need them. You’re always tired and drenched with sweat, and you’re on edge because you know there are those who want to stop the mission at any cost. But you keep going because you have professional integrity.

While I was there I worked alongside medical professionals as we were assigned to care for men who had killed Americans and had nothing but hatred for us. These men were in our custody as we flew them to the awaiting judgement and the due process they were entitled to. It was a true test of character, but we did it because we have professional integrity. My point is that even when character and conscience are challenged being a professional requires us to do what is right. So often it is easier to do less or go slower or be complacent. But we can’t because we have professional integrity.

Roy Walton and fellow airmen fly the UConn flag. (photo via Roy Walton)

The we that I speak of is inclusive. It is for my fellow airmen but also for those in this room. As student pharmacists, and eventually as licensed practitioners, we will be faced with challenges which will require us to do the right thing even when that’s the hard thing.

We must foster a respectful, supportive, and collaborative environment on our worst days. That is what our professional integrity demands. We will be highly trained and proficient by the time we leave UConn, but it is up to us to ensure that we never choose to do less, never go slower, and never grow complacent. We must do our part to guarantee the best health outcomes for our patients, and as professionals I know that we can, and will, rise to the challenge.