New medical students welcomed at White Coat Ceremony

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"You are on the brink of living the richest life possible—the fulfillment found in healing and saving lives, as well as generating new knowledge for that same noble purpose," said Thomas P. Duffy, MD, professor of medicine, his voice echoing through Woolsey Hall as he welcomed the Class of 2018 to Yale during the White Coat Ceremony on August 14. For the past two decades, the ceremony has welcomed the first-year class with the donning of a garment that identifies them unmistakably as new members of the medical profession.

The white coat has been an iconic symbol of the scientist for over a century, Duffy said, but when worn by the physician, the white coat takes on even more meaning. "It signifies attributes of both the healer and scientist," he said to the 104 first-year students seated before him. "It connotes the cleanliness of surgical technique and a purity of spirit linked to a firm foundation in science—a science that is always in the service of patients … never patients in the service of science."

This year’s class was selected from a pool of 4,374 applicants. Fewer than 3 percent of those who applied for a seat made it to New Haven, but they still represent one of the most diverse classes in the history of the School of Medicine: 53 are women; 19 are from groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine; 15 hail from countries outside the United States. Many of them, like Lovemore Simbarashe Kuzomunhu and Belinda Juliana Nhundu, incoming students from Zimbabwe, will continue to expand Yale’s global reach.

"I want to go back to my home country and improve the conditions there," said Nhundu. Her classmate Kuzomunhu is all too familiar with the medical needs of his home country; when he was 17, he lost his younger sister to a brain tumor because his family couldn’t find an affordable neurosurgeon. Since then, Kuzomunhu channeled his frustration with the doctors’ inability to save his sister into his education. "It actually turned into a passion, that maybe one day I’ll be able to be in a position to save people," he said.

At the ceremony, the new students slipped on their white coats for the first time, and joined the ranks of more than 200 classes that came before them. “Since Yale School of Medicine was established in 1810, the names of those who have walked these halls are astonishing.,” said Dean Robert J. Alpern, MD, Ensign Professor of Medicine. “And now you will walk these halls.”

Alpern assured the students that any anxieties they may have had about belonging at Yale were unfounded: “If we do our job and you do yours, years from now students will walk the halls wondering if they belong in the same institution that trained the Class of 2018."

 


This Article was submitted by Michael E Fitzsousa, on Tuesday, August 19, 2014.