They were welcomed warmly by Medical School leadership, and they embarked on their journeys with plenty of advice given to help them thrive and excel during all four (or more) years
The Medical School’s annual White Coat Ceremony is an occasion of celebration, welcoming, and the sharing of advice for our newest class of medical students.
The 27th edition of the White Coat Ceremony had all of these elements on July 23 as the 165 members of the incoming Class of 2023 celebrated with family and friends at Hill Auditorium. They also were welcomed warmly by Medical School leadership, and they embarked on their journeys with plenty of advice given to help them thrive and excel during all four (or more) years.
“This ceremony is a welcome to our profession, to our school, and to our educational program,” said Seetha U. Monrad, M.D., associate dean for medical student education. “But it is also a reminder of why we have all chosen to do what we do.”
Assistant Dean for Admissions Deborah R. Berman, M.D., acknowledged her role on a team of faculty, staff, students, and alumni who helped to build the class. Among its highlights: their average age is 25; 51 percent are Michigan residents; 56 percent identify as women; 10 percent are first-generation college students; 42 percent come from backgrounds that are underrepresented in medicine; and they hail from 27 states and 63 undergraduate institutions. See more information on the incoming Class of 2023 in the graphic below.
“We worked hard to get to know you — the people that you are,” Berman said. “We read your essays. We met all of you. We have a bit of a sense of WHY many of you want to be doctors and want to be here. And your reasons are wonderful.”
Berman then started a theme among leaders of highlighting the different tools that the students will be given, and many that they already have. The first two — their first white coat and stethoscope — were given during the annual procession across the Hill Auditorium stage.
The other tools, she said, already exist in their respective tool belts. These include: a commitment to others and a desire to help humans; curiosity, collaboration and a propensity to lean into teamwork; grit, drive, leadership skills, and a desire to care for diverse populations of people; and a drive to improve health care disparities and for social justice.
“Last, and certainly NOT least, you have a number of other tools in your toolbox that are going to be integral to working TOGETHER in medical school, to learning the material and supporting one another in the hard days,” she concluded. “What are those tools? Your kindness. Your Joy. And your compassion.”
Executive Vice Dean for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer Debra F. Weinstein, M.D., proposed three things for the new medical students to incorporate into their emerging “physicianhood”: Appreciate the great privilege of being a physician; cultivate a growth mindset; and be sure to take care of your own needs.
“You can’t take good care of your patients without taking care of yourself,” she said. “This includes regularly taking stock of your own ‘well-being’ and having a low threshold to reach out for help — which is all around you.”
Medical School Dean Marschall S. Runge, M.D., Ph.D., said health care has never been more important, nor the tools at the hands of physicians more effective.
“Now is the time that health care delivery and medical practice takes on new dimensions of innovation, adaption, and technology,” said Runge, who also serves as executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of Michigan Medicine. “You are here to learn the skills that will enable you to improve health in a multitude of ways.”
Runge also shared his advice: Benefit from mentors; develop a plan, but don’t feel like you have to stick to it; and make career decisions based on your interests and your passion for contributing.
“At the end of the day, helping improve health, whether in individuals or in populations is rewarding,” Runge concluded. “Whatever path you choose, let it be the one that pulls you in.”
Featured speaker Cornelius A. James, M.D.,acknowledged that each new student has their own journey, and that there are similarities and differences between all of them.
“Some will continue a journey that has been winding. One in which you eventually realized that you were called to be a physician. For others, the path has been straight as you knew early on that you would pursue a career in medicine. Some loved ones may be thinking that it seems like some of you had a stethoscope, microscope, evaluation and assessment plan, or a research grant proposal in your hands at a very early age,” said James, a clinical assistant professor in the departments of Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Learning Health Sciences. “Regardless of your specific path, I’m confident that we’ve all had some successes, challenges and even failures during our journeys. But we are here today!”
As they continue their journeys, James concluded, he encouraged the students to consider 6 Ls: live, learn, love, lean in, leverage and lead.
As the speeches concluded, the big moment arrived. Each of the 165 students went to the microphone to proudly announce their name and hometown. They then crossed the stage to be cloaked in a white coat, a symbol of the profession they soon will join.
“You are no longer just a student — you are assuming the responsibility to prepare yourself to care for your future patients who will entrust themselves to you,” Monrad said. “We, the faculty at the University of Michigan Medical School, realize this is a long process — but today, you take that first step under our guidance and tutelage.”
Medical student Lisa Chionis concluded the ceremony by leading her classmates in the annual White Coat Pledge. The recited together: “I will listen to each patient’s unique human story; I will mind my biases and treat every patient with compassion; I will assume the best in others and be kind; I will support my colleagues as we join to care for patients; I will appreciate my opportunities in this profession and advance them for all who follow; I will care for myself as I care for my patients; I will forgive myself for my mistakes and learn from them; and I will strive for excellence while being mindful of my limits and those of medicine.”
A recording of the ceremony is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUPb0YUc7OA.