Over 300 future osteopathic physicians received white coats at the School of Osteopathic Medicine’s back-to-back ceremonies in Hobson Performing Arts Center on Friday, September 17. The Class of 2024’s ceremony was delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and their ceremony followed the Class of 2025’s.
“It was worth waiting,” said SGA President Meaghan Nazareth. “For many of us, it was both about celebrating receiving the white coat and about celebrating the people who helped to support us getting to med school and through the challenges of the past year. It was great for all of our classmates to be able to enjoy this moment together with our families and loved ones, and I think we were really able to appreciate the moment because of the wait to have the ceremony.”
A student representative from each class opened the ceremony with an invocation. Amritha Jacob shared these words and a prayer with her 2025 classmates:
“The white coat we are getting today is the invitation to step into a brighter future—one that is equipped with a new identity primed for a better legacy. So today, as each of us are adorned by our predecessors in this journey with our white coats, I pray that you receive this new identity with the promise that you’re not alone in this journey. Each of you were chosen and appointed for such a time, and therefore, the Lord who began a good work in you will complete it.”
Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, the first African American woman to serve as dean of any US medical school and current president elect of the American Osteopathic Foundation, delivered greetings from the profession to both classes virtually thanks to the Arnold P. Gold Foundation and the American Association of Schools of Osteopathic Medicine.
“The white coat is worn as a symbol of your journey in medicine. It represents your personal aspirations, your commitment to providing health services, your understanding of the importance of humanism in the care of other human beings, and your professional status in the hierarchy of medicine…”
“Look around you at your new colleagues in this class of 2025; they will also become your teachers. You can learn from them to value and respect differences. Look closely the diversity of perspectives in your class…[it] creates a learning laboratory. Your class is a valuable resource as you prepare yourselves to effectively engage the diversity of patients in your futures.”
Dr. Elizabeth Willis (’17) returned to her alma mater to deliver they keynote address to both classes. Pursuing a career in pediatric anesthesiology, Dr. Willis completed a pediatric residency, serving as chief resident 2020-2021, at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and is now a first year anesthesiology resident.
In the address, she shared a metaphor the school’s namesake, Dr. Jerry M. Wallace, shared with her class eight years ago: has anyone ever heard of a turtle on a fence post?
Wallace explained that, “if you’re riding down the street and you see a turtle on top of a fence post, you know that turtle didn’t get there on its own. It had to have been helped to the top of the post.”
“I’m by no means undermining the significant amount of hard work that you have already invested in your career, but there are others who have played an important role in your success,” said Dr. Willis. “Take a moment now to think about your support people: Parents, significant others, kids, siblings, professors, mentors – these are your people. And I understand now where Dr. Wallace was going. We are all turtles on fence posts.””
“This is your community and you want to keep them on your team…In this busy career, make sure that you make time for yourself and them. You are climbing that fence post, and they are going to give you an extra boost, and you need them.”
“Congratulations, our Class of 2025! Go ahead and mark this day and celebration as a notch in your fence post; know that your people and your community celebrating with you today are always supporting you.”