Sailing on the breath of God

USF alumnus and May commencement speaker Keith March M.D., Ph.D. used the metaphor of sailing to underscore his message of broad thinking and wide expectations to over 500 USF graduates setting out to begin lives of purpose and meaning.

"Life is like sailing," he said. "You need to put up sails, which involves effort and danger. When they are up, the boat moves because of the wind, which God makes. But we can’t move if we don’t put them up. If we don’t drop anchor, the breath of God can work in us."

Now the director of the Indiana Center for Vascular Biology and Medicine and the Vascular and Cardiac Center of Adult Stem Cell Therapy, he is dedicated to new medical approaches for patients. He used the metaphor to show graduates the positive power of thinking outside the box.

Accepted as a USF student at a very young age, he graduated valedictorian with a 4.0 average. "I was not boxed in by my age," he said. "I was working and living my life stories like every other student. Thanks, USF, for not seeing me in a box."

Boxed-in thinking can also hinder us professionally, he said. "As a faculty member at IU Medical Center in 1990, we had to clot the hole in a catheterized artery, which usually took hours. After hundreds of times doing it, I thought there must be a better way."

He went into a lab and eventually invented an instrument with a little sewing machine at the end to suture the hole in the artery. After it was licensed, patented and approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1999, it has helped 7-8 million patients get up within 5-10 minutes after the catheterization procedure.

"Don’t keep ideas in a box," he advised. "Look for improvement. Louis Pasteur said, ‘Chance favors the prepared mind.’ Don’t miss the opportunity for new connections and ideas. God created the process of invention and discovery."

He also made a plea for his area of research. "Don’t box adult stem cell research, which saves lives," he said. "Catch God’s wind. You are both essential to this instrumentality."