More than 1,000 pairs of eager eyes watched as the medical students crossed the stage, sticking one arm and then the other into crisp white coats before hustling to snap a photo with UF College of Medicine administrators at the White Coat Ceremony Nov. 23 at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
Claps and cheers erupted from the audience for each of the 137 members of the class of 2018 as they marked a rite of passage — the transition from basic to clinical science studies.
“Although much classroom work remains in order to build a solid foundation for the practice of clinical medicine, today still marks a very important transition for you from the classroom to the patient’s bedside,” said Patrick Duff, M.D., associate dean for student affairs.
He noted that the class of 2018 is only the third group to receive white coats as first-year medical students. This reflects the college’s updated curriculum — which provides students with earlier exposure to clinical experiences — and ensures they will be dressed the part, thanks to new coats with their names stitched in Gator-blue thread.
“Each time I put on my white coat, I think about the responsibility that comes with the profession,” said College of Medicine Dean Michael Good, M.D., as he congratulated students and welcomed families to the 18th annual event, named in honor of Mark S. Gold, M.D. ’75, immediate past chair of the department of psychiatry, who supported the event through an endowment.
The student ensemble then performed its rendition of Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” following an address from first-year student Jordan Ashcraft, academic chair of the class of 2018.
Shortly after the performance, Duff and associate dean for medical education Maureen Novak, M.D., held up each white coat in preparation. As students took turns marching across the stage, some smiled in response to shouts of “We love you!” and “Go Gators!” Others waved to loved ones in the crowd, and one even executed a quick Gator chomp as cameras flashed.
Deidra and Harold Cooley recalled the rush of pride they felt watching their nephew, Hunter Futch, don his first white coat, and said they hope he stays true to his goals and maintains a sense of humor as he forges ahead on his journey toward becoming a physician.
“It makes it seem more real,” said first-year medical student Stacy Bagrova, who noted the ceremony is proof that her dream of being a doctor is becoming a reality. She added that the ceremony symbolizes “being proud of what I have accomplished and also looking forward to what’s ahead.”
After class advocate Tyler Culpepper led his fellow students in reciting the College of Medicine Code of Ethics and the applause faded, senior associate dean for educational affairs Joseph Fantone, M.D., took to the podium to offer closing remarks before students and families filed out of the theater to begin their celebrations.
“Today, the University of Florida is asking you to help us care for our patients with empathy, compassion and respect,” he said to the newly coated first-years. “This is one of the greatest responsibilities you will ever have.”