White Coat Ceremony Welcomes 160 First-year Students into Study of Medicine

Hundreds of family and friends proudly watched the procession of 160 students as they wound their way through the arches of the Talbot building and under the large white tent on the Boston University Medical Campus.  White coat folded neatly over their right arm, smiling, laughing and enjoying the moment that preceded their inauguration into the profession of medicine.

The white coat ceremony is a symbolic rite of passage for medical students. On Thursday, Aug. 2, students pledged their commitment to their profession and the trust, which they must earn from their patients.

”This ceremony is about many things … it is a time of excitement, joy, anticipation, and even bittersweet sadness as all of our lives evolve. For members of the class, this is truly a remarkable moment, which I expect and hope you will remember, perhaps even treasure, always,” said former Associate Dean and Director of Admissions and Professor of Medicine Emeritus Robert Witzburg, MD (MED’77), as he officially presented the class of 2022.

Drawn from a pool of more than 11,000 candidates through six entry pathways and 75 undergraduate institutions, this class is 50 percent women and 22 percent from groups underrepresented in medicine. More than 20 percent hold a graduate degree at the master’s level or above, some with more than one.

The class is unique in many ways. Its members come from 36 different states in the US and were born in 19 countries; almost 85 percent are at least bilingual and, as a group, speak 26 different languages.

BUSM Dean and BUMC Provost Karen H. Antman, MD, shared her insight regarding the challenges the new students might face and was followed by guest speaker Monica Bharel, MD, MPH (BUSM’94), Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, who also serves as Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at BUSM.

Appointed in February 2015 Dr. Bharel is responsible for spearheading the state’s response to the opioid crisis, implementation of health care cost containment legislation, reducing health disparities, finding public health solutions for health care reform, finding innovative solutions using data and evidence-based practices, and other health care quality improvement initiatives.

“Health is a right and not a privilege and it’s our professional responsibility to ensure that each individual has the full opportunity to achieve health.”

Faculty members Daniel Chen, MD, MSc, Assistant Dean, Student Affairs; David M. Greer, MD, Chair, Neurology; Terrell Johnson, MD (MED‘11), Instructor, Medicine; Sharma E. Joseph, MD, Assistant Professor, Anesthesiology; Padma Kandadai, MD, MPH (CAS‘00), Assistant Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology; Linda Ng, MD, Assistant Professor, Urology; Christine E. Phillips, MD, Assistant Professor, Medicine; John I. Polk, MD, EdM (MED’74, Wheelock’13), Assistant Dean, Student Affairs; Jeffrey I. Schneider, MD, Assistant Dean, Clinical Affairs; and Dean Antman coated the students, while Priya Garg, MD, Associate Dean ad interim for Academic Affairs, read each student name.

Rafael A. Ortega, MD, Associate Dean, Diversity & Inclusion, addressed the new students. “Soon, you will be experiencing extraordinary multiculturalism in our clinics, wards, emergency rooms, and operating rooms …The differences you bring in gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, philosophy and life experiences, are our strength, and we pledge not just to protect them, but to celebrate them. We firmly believe that these differences enable us to learn from each other and to prepare a heterogeneous group of physicians capable of treating any patient, and prepared to consider all points of view.”

The class then recited the Hippocratic Oath for the first time, which was led by Jean E. Ramsey, MD, MPH (MED’90, SPH‘08), Associate Dean for Alumni Affairs, who welcomed the students to the study of medicine.

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