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Tomorrow's physicians: From all walks of life

Wearing expressions that ranged from anxious to elated and holding neatly-folded white coats over their arms, the 124 members of the Class of 2014 filed into a packed auditorium buzzing with the anticipation of family and friends. While all had proven academic ability, their life experience, motivation for medicine and a passion for helping people had figured heavily in bringing them to this milestone moment.

“Our students work with patients within two weeks of entering medical school. That’s why it’s so important for our admissions committee to consider attributes like poise, altruism and communication skills once students have met our prerequisites for grades and test scores,” said Tana Grady-Weliky, M.D., associate dean for medical education in the OHSU School of Medicine. “Physicians-in-training need character, commitment and heart in addition to a sharp scientific mind.”

MD StudentsThe School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony welcomes new physicians into the medical profession and “cloaks” them with their first white coats. Incoming students recite the Oath of Geneva, dedicating themselves to their patients, teachers, and to support one another in a lifetime of service.

Welcoming students to the School of Medicine, Dean Mark Richardson charged them to “think about these next four years as a journey forward – not just to the next test or lab assignment or clinical rotation – but rather a journey to your first patient. Who will she be? What health care issues will he face? Will she be crying from happiness at the news of a new baby or a new cure? Starting from this moment, your daily responsibility is to acquire the knowledge and skills so that when your first patient says to you, ‘Doctor, what do you recommend?’ you will be prepared to provide the help they need.”

Sharl S. Azar, MD, the Class President of the MD Class of ’10 and now completing an internal medicine residency at OHSU, urged the students to leave room in their white coats for some very important items: “Fill your coats with those quiet moments that will be difficult to find among the clamor of medical school but will be waiting for you if you learn to listen,” he said. “Fill your coats with resolve as you take the hands of a stranger and say to them, ‘Let me help you.’ Fill them with humility as a stranger takes your hands after months of treatment and says to you, ‘Enough.’”

The J.S. “Dutch” Reinschmidt Lecture was delivered during the ceremony by Sima Desai, MD R’98, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine. Asking the incoming class members “Will You Remember?”, Dr. Desai said that the secrets to being a great physician lie in empathy, gratitude, humanism, self reflection, humility, social responsibility and personal wellness. “Though you have been through much to arrive at this point, you enter a most sacred and trusted profession,” she said. “You will be told secrets no one else knows and you will share moments born out of pure tragedy as well as pure happiness.”

Of the 124 class members, 95 (77 percent) are from Oregon and 69 (56 percent) are female. Three class members already hold doctoral degrees. The mean age for the class is 26 years – a figure that has held steady for the past three years – and the mean GPA score for the class is 3.65. Those who go on to practice in-state will join the one-third of all Oregon physicians who completed all or part of their training at OHSU.

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