Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the Americans who contracted Ebola while treating patients in Liberia, told graduates of the Indiana University School of Medicine on Saturday that failure isn't the focus of being a physician.
Brantly, among the "Ebola Fighters" honored as TIME's Person of the Year, recalled his experience treating—and losing—patients as a missionary doctor in Liberia, the Indianapolis Star reports. After he contracted Ebola last summer, he was transferred to the U.S. for care and later declared virus-free.
"Losing so many patients certainly was difficult, but it didn't make me feel like a failure as a physician," the Indianapolis native said at the commencement ceremony, "because I had learned that there was so much more to being a physician than curing illness. That's not the most important thing we do. The most important thing we do is enter into the suffering of others."
"We were able to hold the hands of people as they died, to offer dignity in the face of humiliating circumstances," Brantly said. "You are going to share in the most intimate parts of your patients' lives. You will share in their moments of tragedy. But you will also share in their moments of greatest joy. You will make a difference in people's lives, and you will make a difference in the world."
Brantly, a graduate of the same medical school, also proudly shared the news that the World Health Organization, earlier in the day, had declared an end to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.
Photographing TIME's Person of the Year in Africa, Europe and the U.S.
Jackie Nickerson for TIME