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First-Year Medical Students Receive Their White Coats

The Geisel MD Class of '22 (photo by Rob Strong)

On September 15, 2018, 92 members of the Geisel School of Medicine Class of 2022 gathered with faculty, family, and friends for the school’s annual White Coat ceremony to don the symbol of their new profession.

Roshini Pinto-Powell, MD, associate dean of student affairs and admissions and associate professor of medicine and of medical education, welcomed the first-year medical students to what she described as one of her favorite ceremonies at Geisel. She encouraged the future physicians to feel joy in the practice of medicine, and read a Mary Oliver poem, Song of the Builders, which encourages each of us, in our own way, to continue building the universe.

Dean Duane Compton, PhD (Photo by Rob Strong)

“On behalf of the faculty and staff, we are dedicated to giving you the best medical education in the country,” said Dean Duane Compton, PhD. An avid hiker, Compton used hiking as a metaphor for the journey through medical school—a great deal of preparation is required prior to beginning a hike, but once on the path the thrill of what lies ahead is intoxicating. “You are now on the path, this is your journey, but you are not on alone,” he said. “We are walking that path with you and today we formally acknowledge your journey.

“The power of the white coat lies equally in how you act and behave while you wear it as it does in how others view you as you wear it,” he continued. “So, as you wear this white coat be aware of your surroundings and be mindful of how your actions affect those around you—go beyond the symbolism of the coat.”

One of Geisel’s ceremonial traditions is for second-year medical students to send a representative to welcome and share advice with the newest class. This year, Arunsrinivasan Ponshumugam ’21 said the white coat represents a calling to heal and relayed a story about visiting a home-bound patient with multiple heath issues. When the patient leaned in as if to share a secret, he whispered that his television remote was broken—it was stuck on the Weather Channel. Living alone, the television was this patient’s only companion. To the patient’s relief, Ponshumugam fixed the remote. “The greatest call of the white coat is to love the patient in front of you—to show compassion when responding to the depth of the human condition,” he said. “Go out and be compassionate to yourself, to others, and to your patients. Geisel will give you many opportunities—seize them!”

Matthew Duncan MED '01 helps Syed Rakin Ahmed '22 don his white coat. (Photo by Rob Strong)

In addition to words of welcome and wisdom from Geisel faculty and fellow students as they received their white coats, students also found notes from Geisel alumni welcoming them to the profession of medicine tucked into the coat pockets.

The Class of 2022 is Geisel’s 222nd MD class since its founding in 1797. The 92 students in the class, including 90 MD and two MD/PhD students, represent a small percentage of the more than 6,500 who applied to Geisel via the American Medical College Application Service.

If you missed this event, you can watch it here: