August 2, 2011


Senior vice president and dean Ray Watts speaks to students during orientation.

Do you remember how you felt on your first day of medical school? That day—a mix of excitement and trepidation, a sense of accomplishment, and a dawning realization that this was the first day of a lifelong commitment—came back to me very clearly on July 25, when the faculty, staff, and I welcomed 176 new students to the School of Medicine.

The class of 2015 is a most accomplished group, with a variety of experiences in education, research, and outreach. While one has conducted oncology research using robotics, another has volunteered at a school and health center in rural Guatemala. One student even personally screened 5,000 Alabama children for vision problems as part of a statewide initiative. These are only a few examples of the caliber of students we will teach, mentor, and prepare for their careers over the next four years.


Members of the class of 2015 work with Equal Access Birmingham to rebuild houses.

First Days

On day one, the new class attended the first session of Patient, Doctor, and Society, a special course focusing on the roles and responsibilities of physicians; the importance of ethics, compassion, and professionalism; and the doctor-patient relationship. Day two emphasized our commitment to community service. Working with Equal Access Birmingham, the students helped build houses and assist recovery efforts in areas of our community hardest hit by the April tornadoes. Other orientation activities have included team-building initiatives and social events, and I want to commend Dr. Hughes Evans, Dr. Laura Kezar, their teams, and our student orientation leaders and mentors for organizing an informative, fun, and interactive welcome to our new class.

Orientation will culminate with the traditional White Coat Ceremony on August 14. The Medical Alumni Association will present the white coats, a symbol of professionalism and compassion, as the members of the new class officially begin their medical training. The ceremony is always a special moment because it marks the realization of one goal and the beginning of new ones. I look forward to meeting all of our students as they embark on four of the most exciting and challenging years of their lives.

2015 Class Profile

94 men, 82 women

23.6 average age

30.2 average MCAT score

10 states and 53 undergraduate  institutions represented

8 M.D./Ph.D. students; 4 M.D./M.P.H. students

20 students entering rural medicine programs

New Year, New Plans

I also look forward to meeting many of you in the Wiregrass and nearby areas at our Dothan alumni reception, which has been rescheduled for September 13. I will share news of our strategic plans in education and research, with a special emphasis on primary care, which we will begin to implement in the next few months. If you do not receive an invitation to this event, please email me at

I hope that summer has been fun and relaxing for you and your family, and I encourage you to continue offering your input and feedback as we begin a new academic year. We have much to accomplish, and we want you to share in our excitement.