Medical school celebrates Class of 2024 at White Coat Ceremony

December 26, 2020

white coat ceremony

Not even a global pandemic could deter the 95 members of the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine’s Class of 2024 from donning their white coats and beginning their journeys as medical students.

In a year of norms upended by COVID-19, 2020’s White Coat Ceremony was filmed originally on October 22 for safety reasons and broadcast on December 26. Although it was anything but traditional, that fact did not undermine the event’s significance, according to Bruce Koeppen, dean of the medical school. Watch the broadcast now

“The white coat, like the stethoscope, is a recognized symbol of the medical profession,” said Koeppen. “It is my hope that the format does not diminish for you the importance of this ceremony, which traditionally marks your entry into the medical profession.”

The eighth class in the medical school’s history, the Class of 2024 was selected from an applicant pool of more than 7,200. It is composed of 50 men and 45 women from 17 states, and 25 come from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine. They from 50 undergraduate institutions.

In her address to the Class of 2024, Quinnipiac President Judy Olian stated that the world needed doctors more than ever, citing the effects of COVID-19, widespread physician shortages and other challenges.

Olian described the broad array of disciplines they would have to learn to meet these challenges, including data analytics, which has become integral to preventive medicine, therapeutics and disease treatment.

“Knowing how to apply the most current and data-driven scientific insights is a vital ingredient of your Netter education, as is the human side — knowing how to treat the full person,” she said.

Olian noted that students would spend the next four years determining what kind of doctor they’ll become and how they will make an impact in the field and the world at large. Likewise, Koeppen urged the students to think seriously about what they will do to shape their identities as physicians going forward.

“Clinical competence, communication skills and ethical and legal understanding alone are not enough,” Koeppen said. “You must also embrace excellence, humanism, accountability and altruism.”

In his keynote address, Dr. Vivek Murthy spoke to the Class of 2024 about their shared responsibility of creating an equitable health care system that provides care for all. This, Murthy said, would require them to become healers in the fullest sense.

“We must care not only for the patient in front of us, but understand and address the underlying factors that drive illness in our communities,” Murthy said.

Murthy, who co-founded the nonprofit Doctors for America in 2008, served as the 19th surgeon general of the United States from 2014-17, the first person of Indian descent to do so. He was nominated to that post again by President-elect Joseph Biden and will co-chair Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board.

Murthy went on to assure the Class of 2024 that they already possess the healer’s most important qualities—the abilities to care deeply for others, listen with compassion and lead with love.

“It is in our intrinsic ability to give and receive love that we find our humanity and our true power to heal,” he said.

To that list of qualities, Lyuba Konopasek, the medical school’s senior associate dean for education, added courage and commitment. Konopasek said the white coat would be seen as a beacon to those in need and, like Murthy, expressed confidence that the members of the Class of 2024 would prove worthy of such a mantle.

“While your diagnostic and therapeutic acumen is in its infancy, I know you’ve arrived with the intellectual horsepower to become spectacular doctors with a tremendous capacity for serving, caring and compassion,” Konopasek said.

Before leading the Class of 2024 through the Hippocratic Oath, Professor Listy Thomas, the medical school’s assistant dean of simulation, recounted losing her own family members and friends to the pandemic, but she also reflected on the heroic efforts of her medical colleagues on the front lines.

“By choosing to join the house of medicine this year, you are all heroes already,” Thomas said. “Each of you will play an integral role in the post-traumatic growth that is to come.”

Aida Martinez, MD `21, a fourth-year medical student and chapter president of the Gold Humanism Honor Society at Netter, also looked to the future. In her closing statement, she pointed to the pin attached to each student’s coat lapel, provided by GHHS.

The pin, Martinez explained, serves as a reminder of the importance of compassion, empathy and respecting the dignity of patients. She advised the Class of 2024 to cultivate and assign their own meanings to it.

“Reflect on the hopes for your future and the patients you will soon help take care of,” she said. “Remember that they have been entrusted to you, and the importance of this responsibility.”

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