The white coat is arguably the most familiar symbol of a physician’s identity. To mark the official start of their challenging journey to become medical professionals, first-year School of Medicine students will receive their own white coats on Thursday, Sept. 16, at 4 p.m. on the campus green. The ceremony will also highlight several institutional milestones: the 40th anniversary of the first class to enter UMass Medical School, and the launch of a redesigned and restructured curriculum. “This event is a wonderful way to mark the transition of the next generation of students into our medical community,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “The symbolism of the ceremony highlights the tremendous commitment these future physicians are making to care for their community with compassion and a deep sense of responsibility.” The White Coat Ceremony is a new event for UMass Medical School—and a relatively new tradition at most other medical schools. The Arnold P. Gold Foundation initiated the first White Coat Ceremony on Aug. 20, 1993, at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, and today 90 percent of medical schools host similar events. Not coincidentally, the speaker for the Medical School’s inaugural event will be Jordan J. Cohen, MD, the chairman of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Board of Trustees.
The white coats themselves were donated to the entering class by the Class of 2010 in a symbolic “passing of the torch” to the next generation of medical students. Each coat is embroidered with the student’s name, a personal touch funded by the Worcester District Medical Society Alliance. And each coat will be adorned with a pin representing one of five houses in the Learning Community, an important feature of the new curriculum structure that began with this year’s class. “Forty years after the first class began at UMass Medical School, we are beginning a new chapter in how we educate physicians,” said Terence R. Flotte, MD, provost and executive deputy chancellor and dean of the School of Medicine, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor of Medical Education. “We will be teaching our students in ways that will enable them to more effectively serve their patients and their families.” In addition to integrating basic science and clinical practice throughout all four years, the new Learner-Centered Integrated Curriculum will ask students to learn independently, and from faculty mentors and fellow students. The Learning Communities concept is central to this model. Learning Communities are organized as five houses, with each house consisting of four 25-student cohorts from all four class years. The faculty mentors who oversee these social and academic homes will act as advisors, teachers and career development coaches. Fittingly, these mentors will be draping the white coats over the shoulders of first-year students during the ceremony. Students will also hear a keynote address by Dr. Cohen, professor of medicine and public health at George Washington University and president emeritus of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). While serving as president and CEO of AAMC from 1994 to 2006, Cohen advocated for the need to promote greater racial and ethnic diversity in medicine, to uphold professional and scientific values, and to transform the nation’s health care system. In 1999, Cohen received an honorary degree from UMass Worcester and was the keynote speaker at Commencement.
For more information on the White Coat Ceremony, visit www.umassmed.edu/convocation.