October 25, 2022

Three-generation UAB legacy illustrates hope and impact of the white coat

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The annual White Coat Ceremony marks a pivotal moment in every future physician’s life—a moment when dreams become a reality. The white coat symbolizes duty, hard work, and the excitement of what lies ahead.

For one medical student at this year’s ceremony, the tradition held even more meaning, one rooted in a three-generation legacy.

“About a week before the ceremony, first-year students received an email inviting family members who are alumni to come on stage with us and coat us,” says first-year medical student Alexandra Savage. “I stopped by the Medical Student Services office and asked if I could bring two!”

An unprecedented moment

Savage’s father and grandfather are both alumni of the UAB Heersink School of Medicine. Perry L. Savage, Sr., M.D., graduated from medical school in 1968, and his son (Alexandra’s father), P. Lauren Savage, Jr., M.D., graduated in 1984. Both specialized in orthopedic surgery and completed their residencies at UAB as well. Now, they co-own a private praalexandra savagectice in Birmingham.

Savage, who earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Alabama, asked her grandfather and father to join her on stage for the ceremony and cloak her in her new white coat.

“I wanted it to be an intimate and special moment. I don’t think any of my peers knew my family would be coating me,” she says.

Unexpectedly, someone recorded the moment, and captured a memory that will now last a lifetime.

After Savage posted it on a social media site, the video went viral.

In a time where social media culture has become integrated with the daily lives of so many, users of these platforms are looking to connect with moving and authentic stories.

The moment between Savage and her family was a public display of hope—one that encapsulates a legacy of dedication and healing a single community by a single family for over 50 years.

Following in their footsteps

“When I think about the White Coat Ceremony, it’s really a commitment of service and a responsibility to patients and the profession, as well as yourself,” she says.

“This white coat embodies a certain standard—to have my family on the stage reinforced the call to duty even more.”

Her grandfather, Perry L. Savage, Sr., M.D., says the moment on stage for him was a highpoint in his life.

“As her name was called, I was honored that three generations of my family have committed to the lifelong care of patients. I am so proud of my sons and granddaughter for choosing a career in which you always strive to learn, problem solve, and deliver the best care for the patient. There is no greater reward,” he states.

Alexandra Savage adds that the moment prompted a reflection on “the honor it is to follow in the footsteps of my dad and granddad, but also to follow in their footsteps serving the State of Alabama through medicine in the role of a physician.”

Choosing UAB

Savage says her father used to tell her stories of his childhood, memories that included riding with his mother to drop off his father Perry Savage, Sr., at UAB's medical school campus for classes and tests.
While she was accepted to other medical schools, UAB stood out to her for several reasons, including her legacy.

“My father and grandfather's experiences at UAB Heersink School of Medicine definitely influenced my decision to choose UAB. They told me UAB is special because it integrates clinical experience, provides research support, and offers shadowing opportunities unlike anywhere else. They said providers and residents want to help and get you to the next level—give you a hands-on experience.”

Her father says he felt pride in his daughter's accomplishment of being accepted to UAB Heersink School of Medicine. “I was grateful that she would be getting a world-class medical education which would prepare her to follow a family tradition of service to her community and the state of Alabama,” says P. Lauren Savage, Jr., M.D.

Alexandra Savage says she immediately saw the truth in their experience in her first week and that the support she received was overwhelming.

She was also drawn to UAB due to the limitless possibilities in specialties, which she is excited to explore.

A legacy without borders

For Savage, the moment of being coated was a commitment to the medical profession for herself and reiterated her family’s commitment as well.

Savage says her three-generation path to medical school at UAB goes beyond their unique legacy and illustrates the intense community impact of UAB's training. "This is how we are serving the state of Alabama," she says.

And, her father shares the sentiment. “I am thankful that we have three generations of our family that have studied at UAB. As the second generation, I feel a sense of duty, both to my father's generation, and my daughter's, to do my part in building and supporting the school and carrying on the tradition of dedicated physician servants established by my father.”

Alexandra Savage says she was also drawn to UAB due to the limitless possibilities in specialties, which she is excited to explore, and she is excited to see what the future holds for her training.. “I have seen the product of their work from UAB. I know it’s a long four years, but my family is an extra motivating factor to do my best.”

“I want to be the best student-doctor I can be while aiming to model their character of honorability and respect.”