Ceremony marks beginning of clinical training for class of 2015

After two grueling years that included 79 exams, more than 900 lectures and about 30,000 PowerPoint slides, the members of the University of Florida College of Medicine class of 2015 are ready to make the move from the classroom to the clinic.

Nearly 800 family, friends and faculty members joined entering third-year students for the annual White Coat Ceremony, held Sunday, May 19, at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

“You have completed the first major mountain climb, which is the rigorous basic science curriculum,” said Patrick Duff, M.D., associate dean for student affairs and professor of obstetrics and gynecology. “Now you transition from the classroom to the patient’s bedside.”

After a musical tribute to families and friends, the 138 medical students were called on stage one by one to receive their white coats embroidered with their names. They will wear their new coats when they start their clerkships in July, where they will encounter opportunities that will help them develop a compassionate heart, intent ears and observant eyes – necessary traits of a talented clinician and revered physician, Duff told the class.

Lauren Simmons and her mother, Debra Simmons share a hug following the White Coat Ceremony, May 19.

Lauren Simmons and her mother, Debra Simmons share a hug following the White Coat Ceremony, May 19.

“No patient cares about how much you know until they know how much you care,” Duff said.  “I urge you to act every day in a manner that earns the respect of your colleagues and patients.”

Michael Tudeen, class academic chair, spoke on behalf of his classmates and reflected on their last two years.

“Today, we don our white coats, a moment many of us have been waiting years for.” Tudeen said.

Due to curriculum changes implemented this fall, the class of 2015 is the last to study under the previous medical education plan. Beginning with the class of 2016, UF medical students now receive their white coats at the end of their first semester.

“Consider that for each class we had, it was the last time it would be taught in that particular format,” Tudeen reminded his classmates. “Although no one is perfect, we did our best to go out with a bang.”

Tudeen remarked on the bonds that were formed during their four semesters of basic science classwork.

“Many things have changed with the transition to clinical rotations, but the relationships we’ve grown and fostered over the past two years will continue to help us thrive,” he said. “The work we’ve accomplished will provide us with the ability to treat and serve our patients during a time of their greatest need.

“This is a privilege and an honor we do not take lightly. We look forward to our years of service and we accept these white coats as symbols of our commitment to our future patients.”

The ceremony ended with students and physicians reciting the class code of ethics, which they wrote during their first week of medical school. The celebration spilled outside to the Performing Arts Center plaza with plenty of photos and hugs.

“I feel like I have really accomplished something, and now I’m ready for the next step,” said Lauren Simmons, whose mother traveled to Gainesville from South Florida for the event.

“It was such a heartfelt, warm ceremony honoring such a great accomplishment. I am so proud of Lauren and we feel so blessed,” Debra Simmons said of her daughter.