'Trailblazers' in training

UF College of Medicine student Estefania Santamaria celebrates with (from left) her stepfather, Carlos Reveron, mother, Brenda Reveron and her father, Jose Santamaria. Estefania’s father flew in from Spain to attend the White Coat Ceremony. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

The 135 members of the class of 2016 made history Saturday by becoming the UF College of Medicine’s first class to receive their white coats as first-year medical students.

“Let me start out by congratulating you on being trailblazers,” said Michael L. Good, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine.

More than 500 family members, friends and faculty attended the college’s 16th Annual White Coat Ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Health Professions/Nursing/Pharmacy Complex auditorium.

Previous UF College of Medicine classes received their white coats at the end of the second year, which signified the end of two years of basic science studies and the beginning of two years of clinical rotations.

The class of 2016 is the first to fully experience the college’s new curriculum changes this fall, which include integrating clinical skills earlier and throughout training, and college administrators decided it was appropriate to hold the white coat ceremony earlier.

Patrick Duff, M.D., associate dean for student affairs, compared the first-year medical students to dolls, saying they have some of the necessary traits to become physicians but are still “a work in progress.” Photo by Jesse S. Jones

Jay Lynch, M.D., assistant dean for admissions and a professor of medicine, said the white coat gives entry to the most private and personal areas of people’s lives, so its wearer carries a great responsibility.

Patrick Duff, M.D., associate dean for student affairs and professor of obstetrics and gynecology, told students they have completed the first step of their journey to become physicians but still need more time to gain the needed breadth and depth of clinical experience.

“In short, you are still a work in progress,” he said.

After musical performances by students and speeches by college leadership, family and friends applauded as students were called on stage one by one to receive their white coats embroidered with their names.

Carl Herndon, the class academic chair, told the audience it was an honor to receive this symbol of their profession.

Members of the class of 2016 laugh during academic chair and fellow student Carl Herndon’s remarks. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

Herndon, whose mother, Karyn Herndon, M.D., is a 1986 graduate of the College of Medicine, said medical students at many other institutions get waist-length coats, but UF presented each of them with a full-length white coat.

“It’s up to us to fill it out,” he said.

After the ceremony, the students, clad in their new coats, proudly posed for photos with friends and family and credited their classmates for their support during the last semester.

Adam Kemp poses in his white coat with his son, William, who was born during Kemp’s first week of class. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

“I feel like we kind of accomplished this together,” said Estefania Santamaria, whose parents attended the event, including her father who flew in from Spain.

Students will start their preceptorships on Monday, Dec. 10, which pairs them for two weeks with community physicians for their first significant patient-contact experience.

Holding his infant son William, Adam Kemp said receiving his white coat made his dream of becoming a physician feel more like a reality. The 29-year-old father of two worked in commercial banking for years before deciding to go to medical school.

“It makes it real now that we’re entering down this path,” he said.