Each year at the end of the first week of medical school, M.D. students slip on their white coats for the first time, symbolizing the beginning of their journey in medicine.
The annual ceremony resumed this year after it was paused in 2020 for safety during the pandemic.
Led by Robert Cloutier, M.D., M.C.R., professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics. and assistant dean for undergraduate medical education admissions in the School of Medicine, 150 medical students walked into the event at the Oregon Convention Center, amid family, friends and faculty members, in person and via live stream.
Their white coats hung neatly folded from their arms, while family members waved and cheered.
“We are so happy to welcome you,” said Tracy Bumsted, M.D., M.P.H., professor of pediatrics and associate dean for undergraduate medical education in the School of Medicine. “All the students sitting here today have arrived guided and supported by many people who believe in you, as do we.”
The ceremony encourages students to accept the obligations inherent in the practice of medicine: to be an excellent scientist, to be compassionate, and to lead lives of uprightness and honor.
“This ceremony is a remarkable rite of passage,” said David Jacoby, M.D., interim dean of the OHSU School of Medicine. “It's the moment when students cross over from the sustained effort of getting into medical school to actually join an amazing group of peers and a team of faculty and staff who will now walk alongside them. For us at OHSU, this ceremony is about the renewal of purpose, a reminder that we are not only here to advance health and care for our patients. We have the honor of nurturing the next generation of physicians.”
The ceremony emphasizes the physician’s responsibility to take care of patients. It impresses upon them the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship.
Of the 150 medical students who are starting this fall:
- 88% are Oregonians or of Oregon heritage
- 69% identify as female
- 36% come from a disadvantaged background
- 33% come from racial or ethnic backgrounds other than white
- 25% come from a rural background
- 23% come from a racial or ethnic group underrepresented in medicine
- Two have completed military service
Allison Empey, M.D. assistant professor of pediatrics, OHSU School of Medicine, gave this year’s J.S. Reinschmidt Lecture. The J.S. Reinschmidt Endowment Fund for Excellence in Medical Education supports the lectureship and the advancement of medical education at OHSU.
Empey was raised in Oregon and is a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Her professional interests include Native American child health, community engagement, mentorship for underrepresented minorities in health care, and increasing the diversity of the health care workforce. She also serves as the director of the Wy’east Post-Baccalaureate Pathway, part of the Northwest Native American Center of Excellence.
“Do not forget what drove you to this journey,” she told the students. “Your patients will be your greatest teachers.”
Each student was called to the stage and Rebecca Cantone, M.D., associate professor of family medicine and assistant dean for undergraduate medical education student affairs, helped them slip into their white coats.
Families clapped and cheered.
OHSU’s School of Medicine Alumni Council, which represents the alumni perspective, welcomed the class with their signature white coat cookies and a powerful video message.
“Your white coat is a symbol of humanism and professionalism. Being professional is important but humanism is making sure that your patient knows they are the most important thing on your mind,” said Jeff Fullman, M.D. ’80, R ’83, president of the OHSU School of Medicine Alumni Association Council.
Lastly, Antwon Chavis, M.D., assistant professor in pediatrics, OHSU School of Medicine, led the Oath of Geneva.
“Remember that the oath you will recite today has undergone revisions. The arc of justice will always continue to bend towards liberty, tolerance and inclusion,” said Chavis. “The oath calls for you to be honest and forthright even when it is hard.”
Meet members of the M.D. Class of 2026
Her path toward medical school has been a winding one. After growing up in the Eastern Oregon town of La Grande, she earned a bachelor’s degree in radiologic sciences at Boise State University. Ross became an ultrasound technologist at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Boise, where the images she captured helped diagnose and manage health conditions.
“I love interacting with patients and being part of their joy, their sorrow and their journey as they try to understand what’s happening with their health,” Ross said of being an ultrasound tech, which she described as being a catalyst for recovery.
After his family struggled to obtain health care due to financial, cultural and language obstacles, Jaime Contreras is determined to help underserved community members receive the quality and compassionate care that every human being deserves.
While he looks toward the future, Contreras also remembers the past. He recalls health care being challenging to access in both Mexico and the U.S. for family members with diabetes, cancer and mental health issues. Some couldn’t afford care, while others received care, but language or cultural differences meant they didn’t always understand what health care workers said during appointments.
“I’ve decided that I need to do something,” he said. “I want to provide care to people who are in need, and both my background and medical education will help me become the person that ensures patients seek, understand and receive cutting-edge medical treatments regardless of financial, cultural or language barriers. I am confident I can accomplish that at OHSU.”