The 105 members of the Yale School of Medicine (YSM) MD Class of 2027 were celebrated on August 7, at the class’s White Coat Ceremony. Families, friends, and YSM community members gathered on the Harkness lawn, and virtually, to commemorate the start of the students’ medical school careers.
In her welcoming remarks, Nancy J. Brown, MD, Jean and David W. Wallace Dean and C.N.H. Long Professor of Internal Medicine, thanked the students’ families and friends for having instilled in them “a love of education and science, and qualities of compassion and empathy” that led the students to choose the profession of medicine. She recognized that many family members immigrated or worked long hours to provide opportunities that enabled the students to attend YSM, noting 12% of the class are the first in their family to achieve a college education, and 28% were born outside of the United States, in 21 different countries—Argentina, Cameroon, Canada, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Iran, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain, Syria, and Ukraine. Members of the class graduated from 58 undergraduate colleges.
“I am proud to say,” Brown stated, “that you are the most diverse class to enter this school. You are also one of the most accomplished, by any measure. You provide evidence for the possibility of inclusive excellence. You are here because of who you are as individuals and who we think you have the potential to become as physicians and scientists.”
Ophthalmologist and inaugural Director of Alumni Engagement Ann Arthur, MD ’90—the daughter of Grenadian immigrants, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York—echoed the importance of inclusive excellence in her White Coat Address. “As medical students, and young citizens,” Arthur stated, “you are the force driving change, innovation, social progress, and scientific inquiry. And you are the best of the best, each and every one of you, deserving of the seat that you earned. It is the ‘inclusive excellence,’ that has become the mantra of Dean Nancy Brown and the Yale School of Medicine. And I am proud to be part of her historic tenure at this institution.”
Reflecting on her path, Arthur shared, “My own story is grounded in the complex sociopolitical context of the 1960s and 70s. There are many dichotomies. My story is about poverty and perseverance. Politics and privilege. Luck and opportunity. And most important, human kindness and community.” The fifth of seven children, Arthur explained that when her parents arrived in the U.S., they knew little about the forces shaping American society, which included “Vietnam, feminism, and the American racial caste system.” And so, she continued, “we learned together, fighting to become a part of the American dream and to build a new vision of community.”
Arthur told the students, “I do not think there was one moment that led me to a career in medicine, but a series of pivotal interactions, each one building on the other.” She shared how when she was growing up, redlining, which denied Black and brown communities capital, good schools, grocery stores, and health care, created stress for her family and impacted her parents’ health. “Ironically,” she continued, “both my parents ended up in jobs where they were around physicians and other health care professionals,” — her mother, a dietary aide at a local hospital and her father as a security guard at a neighborhood health center — “and they were so in awe of them.”
Arthur explained that the exposure her parents gained in the medical workplace, “allowed them to dream of what their own children’s future could be,” and they were determined to educate their children. Her father promised her $100 if she took and succeeded in the New York City Specialized High School examination, which she did, earning a seat at Stuyvesant. Arthur finished high school a year early, and was accepted into Brown’s seven-year medical program.
After finishing four years of college at Brown, Arthur decided to apply to Yale for medical school, attracted by the Yale System of Medical Education. However, Arthur said, her medical school experience was “challenging. And challenging was a very polite way of putting it.” She was overwhelmed socially, and “there were some on campus who had an opinion about how I had gotten into Yale.” She then described the community that formed around her at Yale, thanking individuals who “provided a place of warmth and sustenance.” These individuals, Arthur continued, “gave me affirmation and assured me that in the end, everything would be all right. I ended up practicing medicine and raising a family in the community I grew up in. I am still writing my story, and it’s a happy one.”
Arthur had three pieces of advice for the students. First, “be intentional about the relationships you cultivate here at Yale. The relationships you foster with patients, faculty, staff and with each other will serve you throughout your careers.”
Second, “Respect the power of this degree.” She described how her medical degree “gave me access and allowed me to advocate for my community and those less fortunate. And it made people listen.” She was able to form collaborations that allowed her to become a PTA president, transform her neighborhood elementary school, establish several endowed scholarships and serve as a New York City poll worker. “Now I am using this degree to help support and nurture the next generation of physician-leaders.”
Finally, “As a mom, I have to say, call home. Love on your parents, your people, your home communities.”
In what has become a YSM tradition, Arthur’s fellow alumni, Association of Yale Alumni in Medicine (AYAM) Executive Committee President J. McLeod (Mac) Griffiss, MD `66, and AYAM Chair of Agents Mark L. Meyer, MD ’94, JD ’98, handed each new student a stethoscope—a gift from the alumni—after each donned their new white coat.