Our newest medical students receive their white coats

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Daniel Milner

On a perfect Sunday morning, 216 first-year medical students participated in the School of Medicine’s White Coat Ceremony, a rite of passage officially welcoming them into the community of healers. The physician’s white coat is a powerful symbol of the profession, and the ceremony launched these students at the beginning of their medical education—because becoming a doctor is not just a job or career—it is a life choice.

This year’s ceremony was special because it was live, not virtual. It brought our medical students and some of their professors and staff together outdoors, at Freiberger Field behind the Tink, wearing masks along with their new white coats and practicing social distancing.

It was also Stan Gerson’s first White Coat Ceremony as interim dean, opening the celebration and discussing what a life in medicine has meant to him and his family of physicians. He introduced Jim Young, chief academic officer at the Cleveland Clinic and professor of medicine. Jim also expounded on his lifetime as a doctor, telling the story of a special patient he treated almost 40 years ago, whose courage, optimism and fighting spirit touched everyone around her. 

Lia Logio, our new vice dean for medical education led the audience along with two students in reciting the Oath of Professionalism 2020, a document that the students just collaborated on at their orientation the week before. 

Acknowledging that they are starting their medical careers at a pivotal time in history, the students pledged to act as scientists and clinicians—but above all—as humanists. They promised to embrace the unique identities of their patients and practice cultural humility, inclusivity and lifelong learning. Vowing to investigate and improve evidence-based medicine, they pledged to foster a collaborative environment and combat inequalities and injustice in healthcare. 

Drawing inspiration from these turbulent times to fight for social justice, their commitment to medicine extends beyond the white coat.

Congratulations to our incoming medical students of 2020!