Nov. 21, 2017 — First-year medical student Yoni Nutovits slipped his hands into the pockets of his white coat for the first time Sunday afternoon. In the right pocket, he found a card.
“Learn everything you can well,” it read. “Try to emulate those instructors and physicians who demonstrate the highest standard of patient care and compassion.”
Each member of the UF College of Medicine’s class of 2021 received cards printed with “words of wisdom” from alumni as part of the Mark S. Gold, M.D. ’75, Distinguished Professor and Alumnus White Coat Ceremony, held Sunday afternoon at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The ceremony marks an important milestone in the burgeoning careers of medical students.
Nutovits said the words of wisdom on his card reinforced the value he places on his education.
“We learn so much from both our professors and the patients we care for,” he said. “And we learn not just medicine, but lessons in humanity.”
The ceremony began with a bagpipe procession and a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by a student ensemble led by first-year student Miles Cameron. The ensemble also performed the UF alma mater and Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up,” dedicated to the friends and family members who support their loved ones through a grueling medical school schedule.
Patrick Duff, M.D., associate dean for student affairs, posed a tough question to the first-year students before they walked across the stage to don their new white coats.
“What do you need to do to earn the awesome privilege of caring for another’s life?” he asked.
He answered the question for them with advice from sources like Yogi Berra, Mark Twain and Martin Luther King Jr. In short, stay humble, stay receptive, care deeply and treat your patients with love and sensitivity, Duff told them.
Daniel O’Neill, academic chair for the class of 2021, explained the many meanings the white coat holds for his classmates.
“For some, it means a symbol of compassion, a rite of passage or recognition of past accomplishments,” he said. “To me, the white coat is a privilege and a uniform. It signifies that you’re part of something greater than yourself. It’s a symbol to others that you can be trusted.”
After they received their coats, the students reviewed the UF College of Medicine code of ethics and sang the alma mater and then spilled into the Phillips Center atrium to take photos with family and congratulate their classmates.
Deandra Chetram stood in the sunshine in front of the Phillips Center reading her card. William Slayton, M.D. ’92, division chief for pediatric hematology/oncology at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, wrote “Don’t lose track of what’s truly important.” Chetram patted her pocket.
“My white coat will always remind me of that,” she said.