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White Coat Ceremony Marks Milestone for Class of 2020

More than 900 guests witnessed the School of Medicine Class of 2020 don their white coats for the first time, marking an emotional and symbolic step on their journey to becoming physicians. Led by Master of Ceremony, Jennifer L. Koestler, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education and associate professor of pediatrics, the White Coat Ceremony, a rite of passage for medical students, took place on October 28 at the Performing Arts Center in Purchase, N.Y.  Proud families and friends from across the country beamed as 213 first-year medical students, received words of encouragement and sage advice and were cloaked in their coats by “investors,” distinguished members of the School’s faculty who trust in the students’ ability to carry on the noble tradition of the practice of medicine. View the White Coat Ceremony photo gallery. ‌

D. Douglas Miller, M.D., C.M., M.B.A., dean of the School of Medicine, explained the significance of the White Coat Ceremony to the students assembled on stage. “We want to be sure that the weight of this occasion, like the weight of the cotton twill that you are donning today, is fully felt by all – by you, our students and by their parents and families,” he said. “For throughout a career in medicine, we are tightly bound by a cloth of responsibility that must be experienced to be fully appreciated. How you will wear that cloth… and these white coats… remains to be seen.”

Lydia Bunker, SOM Class of 2017, and president of the student senate, reassured the fledgling medical students that although they may be overwhelmed at times, there is a wealth of support available from the NYMC community and they should not hesitate to seek it.

Qais Karim, SOM Class of 2017 and a member of the Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS), also addressed the Class of 2020. “Today, your unique paths and stories will intersect upon this stage as you don your white coat, complete with a pin from the Gold Humanism Honor Society. Compassion and empathy are the two guiding principles of GHHS, which advocates and recognizes compassionate, patient-centered care in the training of physicians. Diversity and inclusion, exemplified in many of NYMC’s efforts, contribute not only to the changing culture of medicine, but also to this patient-centered care,” he said.

The audience and students delighted in the White Coat Ceremony Address given by Matthew A. Pravetz, O.F.M., Ph.D. ’88, professor of cell biology and anatomy and assistant dean for basic sciences. He shared his perspective in a talk entitled “My Child—The Doctor?,”  describing his impression of the new crop of students and some of their trials and tribulations in the first weeks of medical school.

After the Class of 2020 was presented by Gladys M. Ayala, M.D., M.P.H., vice chancellor for university student affairs, senior associate dean, School of Medicine and associate professor of clinical medicine, and invested with the garb of the medical profession, the stage was a swath of white coats as the SOM Class of 2020 rose to take a medical student oath which they wrote themselves, pledging to embody the highest standards of professionalism. “I really enjoyed the collaborative student effort to create the oath that we all pledged during the White Coat Ceremony. It made the event seem more personal and helped strengthen the sense of community among our student body,” said Robert Kane, SOM Class of 2020 and a first-year senator.

Created by The Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 1993, a White Coat Ceremony is celebrated at nearly all medical schools in the United States, as well as in 19 other countries. This public event emphasizes the importance of the tradition of the caring doctor by emphasizing the importance of the relationship between the practitioner and the patient. NYMC students received “Keeping Healthcare Human” lapel pins, a gift from the Foundation, to remind them of their obligation to treat their patients and colleagues with dignity, respect and compassion.