August 15, 2017

New first-year medical students honored at annual White Coat Ceremony

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White Coat Ceremony 2017 The 186 students in the Class of 2021 were welcomed to the UAB School of Medicine and presented their first white coats at the annual White Coat Ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 13 at UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center. The ceremony marks the end of roughly three weeks of medical school orientation and the new students' first class, Patient, Doctor and Society, which focuses on the role that physicians play in society, with emphasis on professionalism, compassion, responsibility, ethics and the doctor/patient relationship.

The ceremonial presentation of white coats to medical students, created by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 1993, includes the signing of the oath of commitment to patient care that reminds incoming students of the dedication necessary to complete a medical education and of the compassion necessary to practice medicine.

Lisa Willett, M.D., director of the Tinsley Harrison Internal Medicine Residency Program and keynote speaker for the ceremony, said she is pleased schools value the honor of the medical profession with the White Coat Ceremony because she believes professionalism shouldn’t be part of medical school’s hidden curriculum but should be celebrated and highlighted publicly. “Because although the ceremony might be relatively new in medical schools, the values of the white coat are not.”

“A famous quote by Dr. Tinsley Harrison, the first chair of medicine at UAB, beautifully captures why we’re here today. He said ‘no greater opportunity, responsibility, or obligation can fall to the lot of a human being than to become a physician,’” Willett said, adding that the White Coat Ceremony isn’t about celebrating getting into medical school and surviving the first few weeks. “Today we’re not celebrating your past achievements, but your future ones. And those future achievements will not be about you, but about your patients—those you have the privilege to serve. This white coat symbolizes the beautiful transformation you’re about to experience as you become a physician.”

This year’s incoming class represents 59 areas of study from 52 colleges and universities. The admissions committee reviewed more than 3,988 applications to select the 186 selected for the class entering in 2017.  

The students filed onto the stage of UAB’s Alys Stephens Center’s Jemison Concert Hall, where their names were read and deans helped them into their white coats, provided by the Medical Alumni Association. Each student was given a pin signifying humanism in medicine, a gift from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, and greeted personally by Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS, senior vice president for Medicine and dean of the UAB School of Medicine.

“The White Coat Ceremony one of two fundamental occasions where we bring students and their parents together to celebrate, and today marks a significant milestone in their journey to becoming a physician,” Vickers said. “It’s fitting that our students receive their first white coats in the presence of family, friends, faculty and alumni—the people who are most invested in seeing them succeed.”

This year, Lindsay C. Sheets of Mobile was named the third recipient of the Sara Crews Finley, M.D., Leadership Scholarship, an honor awarded to upcoming third-year students who demonstrate exceptional academic and leadership abilities. Established in October 2014 by her family, the scholarship honors the legacy Sara Crews Finley, a pioneer in medical genetics, beloved faculty member and student mentor. 

Martin J. Heslin, M.D., the James P. Hayes Endowed Professor of Gastrointestinal Oncology presented the Brewer-Heslin Endowed Award for Professionalism in Medicine to Vineeta Kumar, M.D., associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology.  The award, established by the late Alabama Governor Albert Brewer in 2015, is presented annually to recognize faculty physicians who uphold the highest standards of professionalism in medicine.  Kumar is also director of the Transplant Nephrology Fellowship Program, clinical director of the School of Medicine’s MS1 Renal Module, and medical director of the UAB Incompatible Kidney Transplant Program.

Timothy Hecker, M.D., president of the Medical Alumni Association presented the Martha Myers Role Model Awards to three physicians who have made great contributions to medicine and patient care. The recipients were Sandra King Parker, M.D., a community psychiatrist in Mobile; Amie McLain, M.D., chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the School of Medicine; and Wick J. Many Jr., M.D., regional dean of the School of Medicine’s Montgomery Regional Medical Campus.
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