On Sunday, Aug. 18, the UAB School of Medicine welcomed medical students in the entering class of 2019 at the annual White Coat Ceremony at the Alabama Theatre. 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, which was 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.
Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS, senior vice president for medicine and dean of the School of Medicine, welcomed the students to the ceremony, “This ceremony marks the beginning of understanding what it means to be a physician—the honor, responsibility and commitment to care.” He then encouraged the students to stand up, find their friends and family in the crowd, and give them a round of applause for providing the support to help the students reach this pivotal moment.
Vickers was followed by Christina Grabowski, Ph.D., associate dean of Admissions and Enrollment Management, who told the class, “You are the chosen few.” She shared details about the students’ vast and varied undergraduate experiences, musical abilities, hobbies, research experiences, sports endeavors, community service efforts, and more. The incoming class comes from 49 different colleges and universities. The School of Medicine received 4,369 applications in total and selected 186 students.
Caroline Harada, M.D., assistant dean for Community Engaged Scholarship, was the event’s keynote speaker. In 2018, the student body selected Harada as the faculty recipient of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award, which recognizes a faculty member and student each year for the value they place on humanism in the delivery of care to patients and their families.
She spoke about the need for curiosity and compassion if the medical students want to become truly great physicians. She shared, “Please remember, no matter how much experience you have or how many times you see a disease, for patients and families it’s the first time, and it may be the scariest time in their lives. That is your opportunity to provide compassion.”
The students filed onto the stage, 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 Vickers.
This year, Sydney Mohr was named the 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 and beloved faculty member and student mentor.
Sara Mazzoni, M.D., MPH, associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, received the Brewer-Heslin Endowed Award for Professionalism in Medicine. 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.
John Wheat, M.D., president of the Medical Alumni Association, presented the Martha Myers Role Model Awards to two physicians who have made great contributions to medicine and patient care. The first recipient was Angela Powell, M.D., a primary care practitioner in Monroeville, Alabama and longtime preceptor for both the UAB School of Medicine and the University of South Alabama College of Medicine. The second recipient was Laurie E. Dill, M.D., who has served as the Montgomery County Public Health Officer and as a leader for Medical Advocacy and Outreach—a nonprofit agency that care for patients with HIV/AIDs.