White Coat Students Urged to Help Change the World

On August 2, 173 first-year medical students received their white coats marking the first step on their journey to becoming physicians.

Associate Dean for Student Affairs Angela H. Jackson, MD, welcomed all assembled and Associate Dean and Director of Admissions Robert A. Witzburg, MD, (MED’77), officially presented the class of 2021.

“You have met academic and personal challenges, and have sacrificed much and accomplished a great deal to reach this moment,” he said.COM-WhiteCoat2017

Since 1994 BUSM medical students have joined before family and friends to don, for the first time, the white lab coats that symbolize their commitment to the medical profession.

This class is unique in many ways. Its members come from 26 different states in the U.S. and were born in 16 countries. Eight-two percent of the class speak more than one language and, as a group speak a total of 28 different languages. “In cultural, social, economic, racial, ethnic, gender identity, educational and linguistic terms, and in your life experiences, you define the pluralism that we so value in our society,” added Witzburg.

BUSM Dean and BUMC Provost Karen H. Antman, MD, shared her insight as to the challenges that new students might face and was followed by guest speaker James O’Connell, MD, president of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) and assistant professor, Medicine. In 1985 O’Connell started BHCHP, which now serves more than 12,000 homeless people annually through two hospital-based clinics and in more than 60 shelters and outreach sites in Boston.

“Medicine is all about the relationships you have with the people you are taking care of and the relationships with your colleagues,” O’Connell said. “As you put on those white coats I hope you’ll see it as a sacred symbol of both humility and learning and searching. We are in the business of taking care of people but we have to learn and search and be kind and be humble.”


“Be sure you take the time to listen to the people you are trying to care for.  Don’t lose your sense of wonder, because once you lose your sense of wonder, the white coat will mean nothing.  We’re here to help, to learn and to serve,” he continued.

“Take today, take these next four years and your career and help us change this world.  It really needs it and we need you.”

An international expert on homeless medicine, O’Connell authored a book Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor, which he signed for students during the reception.

Faculty members David L. Coleman, MD, Chair of Medicine; Ricardo Cruz, MD, MPH (MED ’11, SPH ‘03), Instructor of Medicine; Priya Garg, MD, Assistant Dean, Academic Affairs; Allison R. Larson, MD, Assistant Dean, Academic Affairs; Julio M. Mazul, MD, Instructor of Obstetrics & Gynecology; Jolion McGreevy, MD, Instructor of Emergency Medicine; Craig F. Noronha, MD (MED ’03) Assistant Professor of Medicine;  Daniel G. Remick, MD, Chair of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine;  Lorraine D. Stanfield, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine; and  Jennifer F. Tseng, MD, MPH, the new Chair of Surgery coated the students, while Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Douglas Hughes, MD, read each student name.

The class then recited the Hippocratic Oath for the first time, which was led by Associate Dean for Alumni Affairs Jean Ramsey, MD, MPH (MED’90, SPH’08).

In closing, Associate Dean for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs Rafael Ortega, MD, shared, “The differences you bring in gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, philosophy, and life experiences, are our strength. Beneath that White Coat, carry your uniqueness proudly, and with great self-awareness of the contributions each one of you can make in the unquestionably open environment we have created for your education and professional development.”

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