Class of 2024 celebrates resilience at White Coat Ceremony
Students, faculty reflect on the white coat’s symbolism of professionalism and compassion in health care
May 10, 2022— When the members of the UF College of Medicine’s medical school class of 2024 began their studies, they couldn’t have imagined the changes in their education that resulted from living through an unprecedented pandemic.
“We’ll always be known as the COVID class,” said class academic chair Jeff Dela Cruz. “It was intimidating to meet over 140 classmates for the first time and not be able to see their faces or sit at a table with more than three people. But when I think of our class, I don’t think of COVID, and I don’t think of Zoom. I think of resilience.”
Dela Cruz, a rising-third-year UF medical student, shared these words with his classmates, family and faculty during an important and symbolic day for medical students: the White Coat Ceremony. During UF’s 24th annual Mark S. Gold, M.D. ’75, Distinguished Professor and Alumnus White Coat Ceremony on Sunday at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 155 members of the medical school class of 2024 received their own bright, freshly pressed white coats, which they will don during their clinical rotations for their final two years of medical school.
The celebration recognized each of the students on stage as they pulled on their coats — to the cheers of loved ones — and featured a rendition of “You Raise Me Up” by an ensemble of the students.
In her speech to the crowd, College of Medicine Dean Colleen Koch, M.D., M.S., M.B.A., noted that when the medical students put on their white coats, they step into the role of an advocate for their patients, a teammate to colleagues and a lifelong learner.
“Your white coat is a signal to your community that you are an individual who upholds the ideals of honesty, integrity and compassion, and I have full confidence that you will work each day to earn the honor and responsibility of serving patients,” she said. “You will form remarkable bonds on this path and will no doubt make a profound impact on the lives of others.”
Shelley Collins, M.D., associate dean for student affairs, spoke of the significance of the celebration for families and the power of the white coat as a symbol of caring for others, and she cautioned students to not mistake the white coat as a symbol of power.
“The power in the symbolism of the white coat is the commitment you have toward being a compassionate, honest clinician,” she said.
After the ceremony, rising third-year medical student Abeer Dagra said she is excited for the opportunity to care for her patients and put into practice the knowledge she gained during her first two years in medical school.
“I have waited for this day for quite a long time,” she said. “But it’s more than that. It’s my dream, and my mother’s, and it’s perfect that I got my white coat on this day because it’s also Mother’s Day, so it’s kind of like a tribute to her.”
Scenes from the Class of 2024 White Coat Ceremony
Photos by Jesse S. Jones