Outfitting tomorrow's physicians

The UF College of Medicine’s class of 2013 was joined by nearly 1,000 family, friends, faculty, alumni and staff as they marked the transition from basic science education to clinical training during the 14th Annual White Coat Ceremony on Sunday, May 15.

“Today we are celebrating the most important transition you will make as a medical student,” said Michael L. Good, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine, at the ceremony at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Good spoke to the students about the literal and symbolic meanings behind their new white coats.

True, its pockets can carry tools of the trade, such as reflex hammers and medical reference books. But its meaning is far greater.

Michael L. Good, M.D., dean of the UF College of Medicine, speaks to the nearly 1,000 students, families, friends, faculty, alumni and staff who attended the 14th Annual White Coat Ceremony on Sunday, May 15. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

“Symbolically, it represents your maturation as you begin to serve patients and become embedded in their lives as never before,” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Joshua Cohen, the class of 2013’s Academic Chair. Cohen spoke for his classmates when he said it is sad they would no longer be together as often, but their training has taken an exciting new turn.

“It signifies the transition from professional students to student professionals,” he said. He added that without the next two years ahead, “These coats would just be fabric; we are now accountable to others.”

Third-year medical student and Class Academic Chair, Joshua Cohen. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

Many of the students who received their white coats were filled with anticipation.

“Right now it’s just a big transition period for us,” said Chloe Russo, a third-year medical student. “We’re so used to the routine of our first two years and are excited, but don’t really know what’s going to happen.”

The event was also an opportunity for students to thank their families for their support. Most students were accompanied on stage by loved ones who helped in the coating. On stage with Eva Vertes were her mother, Beata, and her grandfather, George, 84, who flew in from Canada to attend the ceremony.

Third-year medical student Eva Vertes celebrates receiving her white coat with mother, Beata, and grandfather, George, who flew in from Canada for the ceremony. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

“It is huge for us because we are refugees from Budapest, Hungary, and Eva is the first generation to go to college in the U.S. and will be the family’s first doctor,” Beata said.

Richard Schatz was accompanied by his mother and father on stage. He said it has been nice to have someone like his dad, Desmond Schatz, M.D., associate chairman of pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine and medical director of the UF Diabetes Center of Excellence, to share the moment. Most of all, Richard was excited about the next two years. “It’s going to be an interesting and exciting transition,” he said.

His father beamed during the proceedings.

“This is his day and I couldn’t be more proud of him and his classmates and what they stand for,” he said. “Their futures are very bright.”

Patrick Duff, M.D., associate dean for student affairs and professor of obstetrics and gynecology, illustrates the transition of the medical student with his prop, Billy Bones. Here, Bones is outfitted in typical first- and second-year clothing. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

The event is sponsored by the Mark S. Gold, M.D., White Coat Ceremony Endowment, which funds the purchase and embroidery of the coats. The Office of Medical Alumni Affairs also supports the event. Medical alumni board President Jason Rosenberg, M.D., ’95, brought congratulations from the students’ fellow alumni.

Rosenberg said the difference between being a Gator and being a Gator fan is that graduates celebrate off the field when they see fellow Gators do amazing things. “You become a Gator when this place and time becomes a part of you,” he said.

The event ended with the class reading their class Code of Ethics, which each class writes together during their first year of medical school. Joseph C. Fantone, M.D., senior associate dean for educational affairs at the college, told the students that they will be challenged as third-year medical students.

“Hold on to the values that brought you into medicine and always reflect on your oath,” he said.

Video by Chris Bilowich