School of Medicine Class of 2025 Celebrates Milestone as Promising Medical Professionals during White Coat Ceremony
The White Coat is a symbol of welcome into the profession and a commitment to a medical student's future patients
Members of the School of Medicine (SOM) Class of 2025 gathered on campus on a beautiful summer afternoon, to celebrate an important milestone on their journey to becoming physicians when they officially donned their white coats for the first time during the White Coat Ceremony on August 1, 2021. Now a 25-year tradition at New York Medical College (NYMC), the White Coat Ceremony began in 1993 at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons by Arnold P. Gold, M.D., a professor of clinical neurology and of clinical pediatrics, there, to emphasize the importance of professionalism and humanism in medicine at the beginning of medical school.
“The white coat is a symbol of your welcome into the profession, your commitment to your future patients and the value of the human side of medicine,” said Jane Ponterio, M.D. ’81, senior associate dean for student affairs and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, who served as master of ceremonies for the event, which was held under a tent behind Sunshine Cottage. “Later, when your investor puts on you your white coat, they will literally be set upon your shoulders the responsibility to serve your community to be lifelong learners and to follow the ethical and professional standards of the profession, not only on your journey to becoming a physician but for the entire length of your career. This white coat should not be seen as a weight, but rather as a privilege to withhold and uphold.”
During the ceremony, the 211 members of the class, who were chosen from a record-setting number of applications received by NYMC of more than 15,000, heard from several faculty and student speakers, who offered their advice to the class on how to excel in medical school and beyond as well as the importance of maintaining their humanism along the way.
“To be a good doctor is to understand the deep fabric of our craft—the relationship between ourselves and our patients,” said Renee Garrick, M.D., vice dean and chief medical officer for Westchester Medical Center and professor of clinical medicine. “When you sit next to a patient, not when you stand by the door talking from afar, and not when you sit typing on your computer, maybe with your back to them, they will share with you their deep fears and their secrets. They will trust you to, hopefully, help them, and maybe even cure them, but certainly to make them feel better. That relationship that bond is something extraordinarily special. The faculty at NYMC understands that learning the art of communication, the art of healing and compassion is as important as learning the scientific language of medicine.”
“Establishing a balance between your studies and activities that promote your well-being is one of the most challenging parts of medical school. A good way to do this is following your passions and hobbies outside of the classroom,” said Rajkumar Pammal, SOM Class of 2023 and president of the Student Senate. “As you don your white coats today, know that you are surrounded by a welcoming, enthusiastic community of fellow students and faculty eager to contribute to you and admire your future success.”
Mill Etienne, M.D. ‘02, M.P.H., vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, associate dean of student affairs and associate professor of neurology, a NYMC graduate himself, delivered this year’s keynote address, in which he echoed similar sentiments about the importance of making patient care paramount as a physician and shared stories of patients he had treated during the career that had particularly impacted him.
“My message to you is to study the basic sciences as your life depends on it,” said Dr. Etienne. “Because one day someone's life will depend on the knowledge that you will gain throughout your time in medical school every second, every minute, every hour.”
“Likewise, there are many patients I have taken care of with inoperable tumors and other terminal diagnoses without clear pharmacologic radiation or surgical treatment. These are the times that your compassion, your humanism, your humor can bring healing to the bedside. Healing the human spirit is deeply gratifying.”
One of the unique and meaningful aspects of the ceremony is also the recitation of an oath that the class develops themselves. This years' oath, included a focus on lifelong learning, social justice and treating each patient as an individual.
"One of my favorite parts about our oath was how intentional and explicit it was," said Antonella D'Ascanio, SOM Class of 2021. "As we read it out loud at the ceremony, I could really sense our class's dedication to this career and to each other."
"Donning my white coat was the moment that I realized my dream of becoming a doctor was no longer a dream but a path that I was already traversing," said Ivan Dominguez, SOM Class of 2025. "It meant so much to have my mom and stepdad in attendance because our family had so many missed moments the last year and a half due to the pandemic, and I'm truly glad this was one we got to celebrate together."