Nov. 20, 2018 — The Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts buzzed with excited chatter Sunday afternoon as family members and friends of the UF College of Medicine class of 2022 gathered to watch their loved ones don their white coats for the very first time. When the distinctive sound of bagpipes rang out, the room immediately fell into silence. The slow gait of bagpipe player Joe MacKenzie, combined with the wall of sound his lungs produced, signaled to the audience that something special was about to begin.
In a moment, the doors to the Phillips Center burst open and the class of 2022 filed into the room in two rows. The bagpipes swelled triumphantly, mirroring the crescendo of the clamoring crowd.
“Good afternoon,” said associate dean for student affairs Patrick Duff, M.D., when the fanfare had finally ceased. “That feels better than running onto the field at The Swamp, doesn’t it?”
The 22nd annual Mark S. Gold, M.D. ’75, Distinguished Professor and Alumnus White Coat Ceremony marked an important milestone for first-year UF College of Medicine students, who received their white coats and stepped ever closer toward their dreams of becoming physicians.
Duff chronicled the evolution of the ceremony, which began 22 years ago in a ballroom in UF’s J. Wayne Reitz Union, attended only by students. Today, the ceremony attracts faculty, friends and family members of first-year students and is live streamed for loved ones who are unable to attend. Duff noted the ceremony marks a similar evolution in the careers of the medical students. With this step forward, he noted, comes great responsibility.
“Soon you’ll have the opportunity to work with primary care providers, hand in hand, in community practice,” Duff said. “I want you to ask yourselves, what do you need to do to earn the awesome privilege of caring for another person?”
UF College of Medicine interim dean Joseph A. Tyndall, M.D., described the special relationship he has with the class of 2022, who began their studies on the very same day he began his duties as interim dean. He called their bond “a true kinship.” He also reflected on the symbolism of the white coat and the values it represents: “purpose, professionalism, trust and honor.”
“When donning your white coats today, it should represent your commitment to honor and truth in your candidacy,” Tyndall said.
Class of 2022 academic chair James Davis described the values and culture his class has already cultivated in their first year of medical school. He said he and his colleagues hold dear the principles of “curiosity, inclusion and respect.”
“For everything that makes our class unique, there’s just as much that ties us together,” Davis said. “This class is composed of leaders with a steadfast commitment to service.”
After each student walked across the stage to receive their white coat, snap photos with faculty members and recite the UF College of Medicine code of ethics, the crowd poured into the Phillips Center front lobby to extend their warm wishes. Whitman Wiggins, clad in his brand-new white coat, posed for photos with his family.
“The white coat is a good reminder of the unique opportunity we have to care for other people and to study the art and science of medicine,” he said.