August 1, 2019

Ceremony welcomes new School of Medicine students

A new year means a new white coat for first-year Vanderbilt University School of Medicine students.

As the 98 members of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s first-year class took their seats at the front of 208 Light Hall, Jeff Balser, MD PhD, welcomed them and their family members to the school’s annual Convocation and White Coat Ceremony.

Thomas Li receives his white coat from Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, at last Friday’s event in 208 Light Hall.
Thomas Li receives his white coat from Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, at last Friday’s event in 208 Light Hall. (photo by Anne Rayner)

“Students, given the nature of medicine and the remarkable relationship we are privileged to enter into with other human beings, there will be a number of ‘first events’ during your medical school years at Vanderbilt — seeing your first cadaver, your first physical examination with a patient, the first baby you help deliver, the first time you participate in saving a life. And yes, the first time you help support a patient as they die. These experiences are cemented into my brain and are as real to me as they were 35 years ago; I believe they will be the same for you,” said Balser, Dean of VUSM and President and CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“Wearing the white coat, while a privilege, is also a reminder that medical school is not something to be “gotten through.” This is the beginning act in the drama of your medical career — you are no longer just preparing. It is meant to be experienced — savored — and lived in the moment.”

Incoming School of Medicine students taking part in last week’s White Coat Ceremony included, from left, Alexander Mina, Ekiomoado Olumese, Helen Gambrah and Rosie Mahoney. (photo by Anne Rayner)

The ceremony, held July 26, came at the end of the introductory course, Foundations of the Profession, which gave students an understanding of the values and principles that guide a physician’s relationship with society and patients.

“Let’s look at the components of the white coat. It has Vanderbilt University School of Medicine on it, which tells me you are now part of our family; you will be one of us now and forever. It also has your name, which signifies you as individuals who are now part of the journey to the medical profession and introduces you to your patients by name, because that relationship you develop with them will be critical as you move forward,” said Donald Brady, MD, who, on July 1 assumed the role of Senior Associate Dean of Health Sciences Education, VUSM, and Executive Vice President for Educational Affairs, VUMC. He also emphasized the need to always remember the perspective of the patient and to commit to being servant leaders throughout their careers.

Nike Izmaylov gives Balser a hug after receiving her coat.
Nike Izmaylov gives Balser a hug after receiving her coat. (photo by Anne Rayner)

The incoming class was selected from a pool of 5,543 applicants and comes to Vanderbilt from 31 states, eight foreign countries and 53 undergraduate schools. This year, 70% of the class had at least one transition year before starting medical school.

Eighty members of the class are pursuing the MD, 14 plan to pursue MD/PhD degrees, and three students are enrolled in the Medical Innovators Development Program (MIDP), a four-year PhD-to-MD training curriculum tailored to engineers and applied scientists. Fifty-one percent of the class is female, 49% is male and 19% of the class belongs to groups that are underrepresented in medicine.

Co-chair of the admissions committee responsible for selecting the class, Joey Barnett, PhD, read the names of the students as they received their white coats, assisted by Balser, Brady, Bill Cutrer, MD, MEd, associate dean of Undergraduate Medical Education and director of Learning Communities, and André Churchwell, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Diversity Affairs, VUSM.

Bushra Rahman smiles after receiving her coat.
Bushra Rahman smiles after receiving her coat. (photo by Anne Rayner)

At the conclusion of the ceremony, students, along with their advisory college mentors, recited the “Oath for Teachers and Learners of Medicine at Vanderbilt,” adopted from the University of Namibia School of Medicine oath.