Newest School of Medicine students receive symbolic white coats

Dr. Steve Ricanati with new medical student

The School of Medicine commemorated 216 fledgling medical students at its annual White Coat ceremony on July 11. A rite of passage, the celebration welcomes first-year students into the community of physicians, clothes them with a doctor’s white coat, one of the most powerful symbols in medicine, and commits them to their profession’s contract with society.

Severance Hall once again provided an inspirational setting for this milestone event, and school leaders, faculty, staff—and most importantly, students and their loved ones—were thrilled to be celebrating at such a beautiful and historic venue, home to the Cleveland Orchestra.

Interim Dean Stan Gerson presided over the ceremony with leaders and faculty from the school in a ceremony that was both live and livestreamed to families and friends. 

“This ceremony marks your welcome to the society of healers of humankind and from this day forward, you will look at the world in a different way, in part because you will not just be trained for a job or career but for a transforming new life calling,” Gerson told the students. “Wear it proudly, recognizing the start of that new calling. Your coat will forever mark and empower you, and in a few short years, you will launch a life-long career.”

Dr. Sherrie Williams
Sherrie Williams, MD, MHS

Keynote speaker Sherrie Dixon Williams, MD, MHS, a pulmonary, critical care specialist at MetroHealth System who served as president of the medical staff from 2014–2016 and an advocate for chronic disease management in the community, provided a deeply moving and heartfelt message to the new students. She called on them not only to provide the best care to their patients but to challenge the social determinants of health including racism and social injustice to overcome health care disparities. 

Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH
Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH

This year’s ceremony also announced the naming of the sixth academic society at the school as the Gerberding Society, in honor of Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, a CWRU double alumna and exceptional figure in American medicine. The first woman to serve as the Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Gerberding led the agency through SARS and over 40 other public health crises and went on to serve as executive vice president and chief patent officer at the pharmaceutical company, Merck.

Students were then called to the stage to be “coated” by deans of the school’s academic societies. The ceremony closed with the students reciting their oath of professionalism, written by them during their orientation week.

Congratulations to our newest medical students!

Watch a recording of the White Coat Ceremony.