Associate Dean for Student Affairs Angela Jackson, MD, welcomed the smiling group of family and friends gathered to witness the presentation of the Class of 2026 with their white coats, which represent “visible evidence that they are joining this profession, taking their first steps along this path leading to a demanding but rewarding and meaningful career in medicine.”
Vincent Smith, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics, welcomed the students gathered under a big, white tent Monday on Talbot Green to what he called “the noblest of professions.”
“It will bring you joy. It will bring you pain…There will be highs and there will be lows, but overall, it will be an amazing, incredible ride,” said Smith, the guest speaker at the White Coat Ceremony, which marks the students’ official entry into the study of medicine.
The heart of the ceremony is the presentation of the white coats, during which the faculty advisers they will have for the next four years help each incoming medical student slip into their white coat, embroidered with their name, that is symbolic of the medical profession.
“When you put that white coat on for the first time today, the message is not that you are expected to become a professional, but that, as of today, you are now already a part of the profession,” said BUMC Provost and BUSM Dean Karen Antman, MD.
The White Coat Ceremony is one of the rare moments during their medical education when the entire class gathers together. In presenting the class to Dean Antman, Associate Dean for Admissions Kristen Goodell, MD, shared some statistics. The 159 members of the 174th entering class were selected from a pool of more than 11,400 applicants. They hail from 30 states and 30 countries and speak 26 languages.
“As we welcome you … our shared intention is for you to reach your goals, so that you can set about making the world a better place,” Goodell said.
But even super achievers are challenged by medical school.
“You and your classmates will have challenges, that’s normal in medical school,” cautioned Antman.
“It’s supposed to be hard; if it were easy, anybody could do it,” Antman said, paraphrasing a quote from the movie “A League of Their Own.”
Newly coated Justin Grant said he felt like he’d come a long way with a lot more still in front of him. An Atlanta native who graduated from Morehouse College, Grant participated in BUSM’s Early Medical School Selection Program, an early assurance program developed in 1982 that seeks to diversify the physician workforce.
“I’m not very nervous or anxious right now, I feel very good,” Grant said.
Brittny Garcia is from the Rio Grande Valley, “extremely south Texas.” The University of Texas at Austin graduate chose BUSM because of its commitment to diversity and its focus on serving underserved populations. She hopes to take what she learns and return to serve her community and others like it.
“I really felt like I was welcomed, and this is where I was supposed to be,” she said. “They really made me feel like I had a place in medicine.”
Smith’s backstory demonstrated that life’s path is rarely straight and predictable. A self-described “short pudgy kid with (thick) glasses,” Smith said he grew up in Texas bookish, Black, and gay. One teacher told him Black kids never amounted to anything and another predicted he’d be dead or in jail by 21.
But Smith had his champions, a supportive mother and “help from people who had nothing to gain from helping me.”
Smith graduated from Texas A&M University, Stanford University School of Medicine and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. He trained in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center (BMC) in the Boston Combined Pediatric Residency Program. He serves as BMC’s Division Chief of Newborn Medicine.
“I wish I could tell you that my path was well planned, and that I thought it all out and it all went according to plan, but that’s just not true,” said Smith.
Smith’s grandmother, who lived to 104, told him age brings understanding and he passed on advice he said he would have given his younger self: hang on, life gets better; inner beauty eclipses outward appearance; and make the best decision you can with the information you have.
“Be generous with your time, love and resources,” Smith told students. “What you get back in return is immeasurable.”
See more photos from the ceremony on Facebook.