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Vanderbilt University Medical Center Reporter

White Coat Ceremony marks start of medical school journey

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Incoming School of Medicine students gather for a photo outside of Light Hall following last Friday’s White Coat Ceremony. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Incoming School of Medicine students gather for a photo outside of Light Hall following last Friday’s White Coat Ceremony. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Family members, friends and faculty gathered in Light Hall on July 29 to support the new Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM) class during the school’s annual Convocation and White Coat Ceremony.

More than 25 years ago Vanderbilt was one of the first medical schools to mark the donning of the signature white coat as the official entrance into medical school for first-year students.

Incoming School of Medicine student James Law was all smiles at last week’s White Coat Ceremony. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Incoming School of Medicine student James Law was all smiles at last week’s White Coat Ceremony. (photo by Anne Rayner)

The ceremony comes at the end of the introductory course, Foundations of the Profession, which gives students an understanding of the values and principles that guide a physician’s relationship with society and patients.

For the 89 members of the 141st class at VUSM, the first day of that course began on July 25.

“We’ve spent the past week thinking deeply about the fundamental promise that physicians must make — to the deliver the best care to every patient every time. This might seem like a simple enough promise, and it’s certainly what people expect from their doctors. But there are a multitude of tasks and tensions, challenges and contradictions embedded in that promise,” said Bonnie Miller, M.D., Executive Vice President for Educational Affairs.

“You will need to be the engineer and the geneticist, the psychologist and sociologist, the advocate and diplomat, the philosopher and the statistician, and forever the teacher and the learner,” Miller told the class of 2020.

The incoming class was selected from a pool of 7,174 applicants and came to Vanderbilt from 30 states, seven foreign countries and 61 undergraduate schools with 40 majors. The median GPA was 3.86, while the median MCAT was in the 98th percentile. This year’s class had the highest MCAT and grade point average in the history of the school, said Jennifer Kimble, M.Ed., director of Admissions.

Leah Chisholm is congratulated by Andre Churchwell, M.D., after receiving her white coat. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Leah Chisholm is congratulated by Andre Churchwell, M.D., after receiving her white coat. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Thirteen of the students plan to pursue M.D./Ph.D. degrees; three students are enrolled in the Medical Innovators Development Program (MIDP), a new four-year Ph.D.-to-M.D., training curriculum tailored to engineers and applied scientists, and 18 students belong to groups that are underrepresented in medicine.

Co-chairs of the admissions committee, Alice Coogan, M.D., and David Bader, Ph.D., read the names of the students as they received their white coats. Each year selecting students from the strong applicant pool becomes more challenging, they agreed.

“This class, chosen from our largest applicant pool in recent years, is representative of the most talented and innovative students applying to medical school. They are a broadly diverse, accomplished group that has excelled in academics, research and service and have been recognized as leaders,” Coogan said.

Colby Wollenman gets a little help from Bonnie Miller, M.D., and Andre Churchwell, M.D. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Colby Wollenman gets a little help from Bonnie Miller, M.D., and Andre Churchwell, M.D. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Amy Fleming, M.D., associate dean for Medical Student Affairs, Andre Churchwell, M.D., senior associate dean for Diversity Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer, and Kim Lomis, M.D., associate dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, assisted with the ceremony.

Among the capacity crowd at the ceremony were several White Coat sponsors who made donations to support the many student activities and organizations that enrich student life at Vanderbilt.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, students, along with their advisory college mentors, recited an oath originally composed by the faculty of the University of Namibia Medical School and modified for VUSM that detailed the obligations and responsibilities of learners and their teachers instead of defining those of a physician.

“White coats should not feel airy and light. They have no magical powers. They will not instantly transform you. You will in fact be transformed over the coming years, but that will result from your own hard work and your travels alongside the essence of life, illness, love and death,” Miller said in closing. “We will be here to help you and guide you, to inspire you and sustain your curiosity, to ensure that the sense of excitement and possibility and optimism you’re experiencing right now never wanes.”

Media Inquiries:
Kathy Whitney, (615) 322-4747
kathy.f.whitney@vanderbilt.edu




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