First-year students receive white coats, gold pins and stethoscopes as they begin their medical careers
By Richard Westlund
Photography by Jenny Abreu
atching the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s incoming Class of 2024 formally enter the medical profession at the John G. Clarkson Freshman White Coat and Pinning Ceremony was an emotional moment for students, faculty, alumni, and family members around the world.
“As a UM alumnus and faculty member for 28 years, I couldn’t be more proud to put the white coat on my daughter, Julia, as she begins her medical career at the U,” said Fred F. Telischi, M.D. ’85, chair of otolaryngology, professor of neurological surgery and biomedical engineering, and the James R. Chandler Chair in Otolaryngology. “It was a glorious ceremony and a wonderful way to begin her journey.”
The August 21 ceremony was held with limited in-person attendance at Hard Rock Stadium. However, nearly 1,000 attendees watched online as the Miller School students made a defining commitment in their careers as the first class to experience the NextGenMD curriculum.
UM President Julio Frenk, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., welcomed the students after they walked in carrying their white coats and took their seats in front of the stage a safe distance from each other.
“You are entering this field at an unprecedented time in medicine,” he said. “Your white coat symbolizes the trust we place in you to always act in your patients’ best interest.”
Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School, hosted the ceremony, which symbolizes formal entry to the medical profession.
An impact on the lives of others
“Your skills, dedication, commitment, and compassion are needed today more than ever,” he said. “We plan to equip you with the necessary tools and knowledge to have a lasting impact on the lives of others. Your new white coats represent a beacon of hope for those in need. Congratulations to you and your parents.”
Hillarie Bass, chair of the UM Board of Trustees, thanked the Miller School leadership for a “creative solution” to the white coat ceremony. She then introduced Latha Chandran, M.D., M.P.H., executive dean and founding chair of the Department of Medical Education, who gave the keynote address.
“With a deadly pandemic ravaging the world, we have to be vigilant,” Dr. Chandran said. “As medical educators, our goal is to provide you with an outstanding learning experience while keeping you safe. In the future, perhaps one of you will contribute to finding a vaccine for this or another disease.”
She added that medicine is an intellectually challenging, emotionally satisfying, and physically demanding career.
“I encourage you to hold your ideals close to your heart, emulate positive role models, and practice daily reflection on the importance of being a caring professional,” she said. “It’s our sincere hope you will be the health care leaders of tomorrow, and we wish you the very best in this journey.”
How the tradition began
Dr. Chandran explained the meaning of the white coat and pinning ceremony, which is part of a long-standing tradition, founded by three Miller School alumni, when they were students in the early 2000s.
The alumni — Drs. Lakshmi Reddy and Cristina Pravia — both from the Class of 2000 – wanted to find a way to welcome incoming students, while also acknowledging the honor of becoming a physician.
They decided upon a freshman pinning ceremony and Dr. John G. Clarkson, the dean of the medical school at that time, and who this ceremony was later named for, gave his approval. To design the pin, they turned to a fellow student, Dr. Acey Albert, from the Class of 2001. In 2019, a white coat presentation was also added to the annual event.
Later in the ceremony, each student unwrapped a surprise gift: a new UM stethoscope provided by donations from alumni, faculty, and friends of the Miller School.
The students were grateful for the recognition and celebration.
“It was a privilege to be part of the white coat ceremony, as I have been working for this all my life,” said Christina Raquel Roldán. “The hybrid ceremony actually was a blessing in disguise. My family members were able to watch from our home in South Florida, as well as Brazil and Chile. Getting the stethoscope was a beautiful, personalized touch.”
If you would like to donate to the Stethoscopes for Students fund, please visit http://miami.edu/stethoscopes.