The OHSU School of Medicine Class of 2021 filed in to the White Coat Ceremony at the Oregon Convention Center Friday morning to the triumphant melody of Jeremiah Clarke’s “The Prince of Denmark’s March,” taking those last steps together after successfully navigating their unique paths to medical school.
Numbering 160, this is the largest class in the school’s 130 year history. Eighty-five percent are Oregonians; 54 percent are women; nearly 38 percent identify with a racial background other than Caucasian; 22 percent are from rural communities; and three have served in the military.
The class includes Tajwar Taher, planning to practice medicine in his childhood home of Pendleton, Oregon, as part of the Scholars for a Healthy Oregon program; Miriam Hernandez-Zepeda, drawn to medicine after the OHSU Med Stars camp during high school in coastal Brookings, Oregon, and Chris Graulty, a Reed College graduate raised in Japan, Ohio and China and attracted to OHSU for the learner-centered, competency based YOUR M.D. curriculum, now in its fourth year.
“The class of 2021 represents OHSU’s commitment to help expand Oregon’s health care workforce,” said Sharon Anderson, M.D., dean of the OHSU School of Medicine. “We are excited to share this rite of passage with the medical school’s 130th class and to support these students as they gain the knowledge, skills and experience to provide excellent care and pursue biomedical breakthroughs serving communities across Oregon and beyond.”
The annual White Coat Ceremony, celebrated in medical schools across the country, is the moment when incoming medical students receive their first doctor’s coat. It is also a time when faculty leaders, teachers, mentors, alumni and the larger medical community celebrate and commit their support to the next generation and join the new students in reciting the Oath of Geneva, led this year by Carrie Phillipi, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics, OHSU School of Medicine.
The ceremony includes words of inspiration and advice.
“Start right now with the end in mind, what does success look like for you?” said Tracy Bumsted, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of pediatrics and associate dean for undergraduate medical education, OHSU School of Medicine.
“It is a combination of an insatiable curiosity wedded to a systematic process that best captures the spirit of inquiry known as science. Use your skill and knowledge to embrace that process no matter what you do in life and use your voice to advocate for that curiosity and systematic process so that your collective talent serves society,” said George Mejicano, M.D., M.S., professor of medicine and senior associate dean for education, OHSU School of Medicine.
“How we work to reduce the distance between us and our patients, in our quest for a shared understanding, and in those moments of vulnerability. This is what reveals our humanism … that connection is the cement in the foundation of each relationship we have with our patients, and that is the true symbol of the white coat,” said Rajesh S. Mangrulkar, M.D., associate dean for Medical Student Education, University of Michigan, and presenter of this year’s J.S. Reinschmidt, M.D., Lecture during the White Coat Ceremony.
Mangrulkar was among speakers who shared powerful personal stories about experiences with patients, including when the elderly mother of a longtime patient with a complex health history arrived alone for her son’s appointment to tell Mangrulkar that he had died, moving Mangrulkar to tears.
Listening from the audience before getting his white coat, Chris Graulty, class of 2021, said he found those stories incredibly moving.
“That might have been the first time it hit me: I’m going to have relationships like that,” Graulty said. “I’m excited.”