Class of 2017 Embarks on Medical Education Journey

White coat ceremony highlights transformative process

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The 2013 White Coat Ceremony held on Talbot Green August 5 marked a threshold for the 165 members of the BUSM Class of 2017; it is the beginning of a transformative process that will take them from their current life experience to the role of healer.

Keynote speaker Robert Lowe, MD, BUSM associate professor of medicine, noted to the class how the white coat is a symbol of intelligence, trust and responsibility, and explained it is a visible sign to others. “Right now, at the start of medical school, the coat is for you too because you’re just starting on this journey, so put it on, take some pictures, and wear it proudly when we have you see patients this year. But soon, it is just going to be a coat, with pockets full of books and tools, impossible to keep clean, with a space-age design that is boiling hot in the summer yet ice cold in the winter.

“That’s what’s supposed to happen – you are going to internalize the knowledge, the skills, and the values of medicine – they will be in you, not on you, and best of all, they will be there when you take off the coat and leave the hospital. And I say ‘best of all’ because this is goal of medical education – to transform you from the college graduate you are today into a physician. “

Drawn from a pool of 11,780 candidates through six entry pathways and 82 undergraduate institutions, the Class of 2017 comprises 52 percent women, 15 percent under-represented minorities and 20 percent with a graduate degree at the Master’s level or above, some with more than one. A highly accomplished class, most have participated in research and many have published scientific papers. Some have been volunteers with Americorps, Teach for America, and The Peace Corps, while others have worked in high tech, taught elementary school or started a business.

The class is diverse in many ways. Its members come from 27 different states in the U.S. and were born in 25 countries. One hundred forty-three speak more than one language and as a group speak a total of 25 different languages. “In cultural, social, economic, racial, ethnic, educational, and linguistic terms, and in your life experiences, you define the pluralism that we so value in our society,” noted Associate Dean for Admissions Robert Witzburg, MD ’77 in formally presenting the class.

In accepting the Class of 2017 to the School of Medicine, Dean Antman noted that there would be “bumps in the road” of their medical education, but reassured them that those who have gone before them have faced the same hurdles. She cited the example of one of her own classmates who fainted numerous times during anatomy class only to become a distinguished professor of psychiatry.

“You are about to embark on a great adventure, with a steep learning curve,” said Antman. “Students talk about the process of learning medicine as ‘drinking from a fire hose.’ Nevertheless, you will be supported by more than 2,000 faculty, upper class students, residents and dedicated staff.

She congratulated the parents of the class and explained, “Becoming a physician will change your daughter or son. Not all of the transition to being a physician is academic and having issues with adapting to being a physician is normal. In fact, we worry if students don’t have difficulty dealing with some of the injuries and illnesses they see during the course of their transition from student to physician.”

While Douglas Hughes, MD, associate dean for academic affairs read off their names, each class member climbed the stage where they received assistance donning their white coat from Associate Dean for Students Affairs Angela Jackson, MD; Assistant Deans of Student Affairs Kenneth Grundfast, MD, and John Polk, MD’74; Assistant Dean for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs Samantha Kaplan, MD; and Professor Emeritus of Surgery Robert Beazley, MD. Led by Associate Dean for Alumni Affairs Jean Ramsey, MD ’90, the class recited the Hippocratic Oath for the first time.

“Beneath that white coat, carry your uniqueness proudly, and with great self-awareness of the contributions each one of you can make in the open environment we have created for your education and professional development,” said Rafael Ortega, MD, Associate Dean for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs in his closing remarks. “Let these white coats collectively represent a large canvas on which you will, with great inspiration, paint the masterpieces of your careers.”

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