As with many of the classes that have come before, the Class of 2006 is a group of individuals with strong similarities and equally striking differences. About half the students attended Ivy League colleges, yet not all came to Yale straight from their undergraduate studies. Among the new students are a jet fighter pilot and a 40-year-old grandmother (See Long Road to Cedar Street). Also in the group are a record-breaking equestrian, a juggler who demonstrated his skills at a lunch for the new class, and students who organized programs or businesses that developed patient information software, published books and taught self-defense to women and teenage girls. The class includes students born in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Cuba, Austria, China, Norway, the United Kingdom and Canada and students fluent in a variety of languages including French, German, Yiddish, Hebrew, Chinese and Japanese.

On the afternoon of August 27, these 55 women and 45 men gathered under a tent on Harkness Lawn for a ceremony that both unites them in a calling and symbolizes their profession. “Donning a white coat marks a rite of passage,” said Charles J. Lockwood, M.D., FW ’89, the new chair of obstetrics and gynecology, and keynote speaker at the White Jacket Ceremony. “A white coat is a potent and durable symbol of medicine’s rich past and exciting future.”

Tracing the history of medicine in the United States, Lockwood noted that many teaching techniques of the 19th century are still in vogue, as are humanism and a reverence for life. “What has changed is the quality and quantity of material that must be taught,” he said, recalling his first day as a medical student 25 years ago. “My dean told us that over the next four years we would double our vocabulary.” He became a physician before personal computers, before AIDS, before pet scans and before FedEx could deliver specimens overnight. “Indeed, the structure of DNA had only been discovered 25 years before. What occurred over the next 25 years is too amazing to contemplate.”

Dean David A. Kessler, M.D., closed the ceremony by asking for a promise from the new students. “Becoming a doctor is a privilege,” he said. “In exchange for that privilege I want you to change the world. I want you to do some good. The request I have of you is for the rest of your life.”