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OHSU School of Medicine welcomes M.D. class of 2017

Newest class will contribute to Oregon’s evolving health care system and reform efforts

OHSU Class of 2017 White Coat Ceremony


Friday, August 16, 1 p.m.


OHSU Auditorium (formerly the Old Library Auditorium)

***Editors: Media are invited to the class of 2017 White Coat Ceremony Friday, Aug. 16, at 1 p.m. in the OHSU Auditorium (formerly the Old Library Auditorium) on the Marquam Hill Campus. Entering student-physicians will be "cloaked" in their first white coat in front of family, friends and faculty.

This Friday Oregon Health & Science University welcomes its 126th School of Medicine M.D. class with a White Coat Ceremony, a much-anticipated tradition that symbolizes the beginning of a medical student's journey to becoming a physician.

The OHSU School of Medicine’s 126th class is characterized by a wide diversity of students, all of whom have already distinguished themselves in the health care field and have accomplished many things in other areas. The 2013-14 entering class – 85 percent of whom are Oregonians – includes decorated military veterans, Tillman Scholars, artists, teachers, nurses, EMTs and paramedics, scientists, security analysts, social workers, community activists, bloggers, ranchers and many others.

“This class joins our medical school during an exciting period of change. Oregon is on the forefront of health care reform, and these students will be vital participants in tomorrow’s models of care delivery,” said George Mejicano, M.D., senior associate dean for education, OHSU School of Medicine. “The OHSU School of Medicine is committed to preparing future physicians who will not only thrive as practitioners in our communities, but lead the future of health care itself.”

The White Coat Ceremony will include remarks from Tracy Bumsted, M.D., M.P.H., an award-winning educator and the school’s new associate dean for undergraduate medical education. The J.S. Reinschmidt, M.D., Lecture — a special message to the students presented by a guest speaker each year — will be delivered by Donald Girard, M.D., a senior consultant in the Office of the Dean, professor of medicine, and former associate dean for graduate medical education.

“I am consistently impressed and inspired by the quality and diversity of backgrounds of our medical students. They each bring unique perspectives to the journey of becoming a physician while displaying qualities such as empathy, listening ability and analytical skills, which we know are important to the practice of medicine,” said Mark Richardson, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the OHSU School of Medicine. “The White Coat Ceremony is an annual reminder of why I became a physician and why I chose to be part of an academic health center like OHSU.”

Following are select snapshots of how some of these first-year medical students found their way into medical school. These students are available for media interviews.

Mary Clare Bohnett

Social worker Mary Clare Bohnett, 27, was born and raised in Princeton, New Jersey. She attended Duke University and earned a BS in Biology.

Bohnett has worked in homeless services since arriving to Portland in 2008. She helped manage JOIN’s drop-in center for chronically homeless adults and worked with Janus Youth Programs as an outreach specialist, engaging with street entrenched youth in downtown Portland.

During Bohnett’s two years at JOIN, she worked with the Outside In Medical Van, which visited her workplace site weekly to see patients. She was witness to the scramble for appointments, what she describes as “the striking chronic and acute medical conditions” faced by the population, and the “power of newly stabilized health” to enable further changes and positive developments in the lives of her clients. “It was then that I began my journey towards medical school.”

Byron Etta

Army veteran Byron Etta, 27, grew up in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook, Ill. He was selected as a Tillman Military Scholar and attended the University of Oregon, where he earned a B.A. in biology.

A U.S. Army medic, Byron served two tours in Iraq, where he helped to develop trauma care protocols. A combat veteran, he received numerous merits and awards, among them the Combat Medical Badge for treating both Iraqi (civilians/enemy, combatants/soldiers) and American soldiers under fire.

Treating patients as a medic in Iraq was the trial by fire experience that launched Byron toward pursuing his medical degree. As a result of his military experience, he is driven to provide a humanizing experience to those who need it most, like the people he saw daily in Iraq.

At the end of his second tour, Byron sought and was granted conscientious objector status, but remained in the military until he was honorably discharged. After being hit with a roadside bomb that gave the driver and gunner a concussion (Byron was thrown in his seat, but sustained no injuries) he became invested in the value of life.

“The violence of war was intolerable for me. Once I felt it, I realized that I couldn’t ever hurt another person.”

In this sense, Bryon said his conscientious objector status was a symbolic act that allowed him to live his values, which is what he feels privileged to do at OHSU as a student and someday as a physician.

Aubrey Frazzitta

Artist Aubrey Frazzitta, 23, grew up in Lake Oswego, Ore. While a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation University Scholar at Duke University, Frazzitta explored her growing interest in medicine both scientifically and artistically. She volunteered with the Art Cart at Duke Eye Center and taught a self-designed undergraduate course exploring the intersections of medicine and art. One of her notable achievements was illustrating a children’s book called, Felicia, A Freckle Fairy Tale

“This book is helpful for children because it expresses how each person needs to feel special and unique in some way. Felicia, the main character in the story, helps children realize that everyone has something extraordinary about them — we just need to find that something and allow ourselves to realize it.”

The same creativity that fuels Frazzitta’s artwork has also inspired her interest in research and academic medicine.  

Paul Jones

Former Oregon State University linebacker Paul Jones, 25, grew up in Juntura, Ore., a small ranching community between Burns and Vale. He attended high school in nearby Nyssa, Ore.

While playing football for the Beavers (2008-10), Jones tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) three times, which put him on the sidelines and forced him to address a difficult situation — that of not being on the playing field.

The injuries he suffered at OSU helped expose Jones to the health care community in Corvallis. He spent a significant amount of time with the head orthopedic surgeon for OSU athletics.

“This transition from patient to provider really helped me empathize with patients and introduced me to sports medicine. This is where that early childhood spark evolved into a real passion and I decided to dedicate my life to medicine.”

Gary Olds

Army veteran Gary Olds, 30, grew up in rural Clatskanie, Ore. A third-generation Oregonian, he entered into the U.S. Army infantry and served in Northern Iraq. In 2004, he suffered a combat-related leg injury from a suicide bomber attack in the single deadliest suicide attack on American soldiers during the war. Among numerous military accolades, Olds was awarded an Army Commendation with Valor Device (for actions of heroism during direct combat) and a Purple Heart (for injuries sustained in conflict by a direct enemy action).

After his discharge from the Army, Olds, who previously had worked as a firefighter, went to paramedic school with the goal of returning to the fire service. During this time, he became interested in medicine and shadowed a physician, who mentored him on the possibilities of attending medical school.

“As a result of the suicide attack, a steel ball bearing ripped through my leg. Now, being outside in the cold, especially during winter, makes it very painful for me. So that leg pain, coupled with an interest in medicine, made me realize that the fire service wouldn’t be the right fit for my body in the long run.”

Olds has seven higher degrees. He attended Portland State University, and obtained three of those bachelor degrees in Molecular/microbiology, Biochemistry and General Science.

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