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Geisel School of Medicine Class of 2026 Marks a Rite of Passage

Photo by Mark Washburn

On August 19, Geisel School of Medicine students in the MD Class of 2026 marked a rite of passage in the field of medicine when they received their short white coats, symbolic of their status as physicians in training, during the medical school’s annual White Coat ceremony. An iconic symbol in medicine, the white coat represents the bond of trust between those who wear it and their patients.  

Alison Volpe Holmes, MD, MPH, associate dean for student affairs and associate professor of pediatrics, welcomed everyone to this special day celebrating an important milestone in the medical students’ educational journey. She talked about the history and power of the white coat and how those who wear it are perceived by others. 

Duane A. Compton, PhD, dean of the medical school, also warmly welcomed the class and everyone in attendance on behalf of Geisel’s faculty and staff then reiterated the school’s serious commitment to educating medical students in the art and science of medicine.  

An avid hiker, Compton talked about how he prepares for a hike, particularly when bushwhacking off trail. Motivated by a spirit of discovery, he used his experience as a metaphor for preparing for and navigating medical school because, “every experience you have is going to take you someplace new.” He also talked about the power of teamwork, reminding students, “You are not alone in this journey. You should never feel alone—we are all walking with you to help you achieve your goals.”  

One of Geisel’s ceremonial traditions includes inviting a second-year medical student to welcome the new class. “I wanted to tell you how to become great physicians, but I can’t do that,” said Tamar Mosulishvili ’25. “What I can do is share one of many perspectives on being a first-year student at Geisel. But first, I want you to take a moment to be silent with me.” 

Following an extended period of silence, she said, “Sitting with silence, and sometimes with discomfort, is something I want you to carry with you throughout your medical education and training. Create space for people around you to be in the moment, to feel comfortable being vulnerable, to express themselves, and to share their story as they choose. Allow them to be present and allow yourself to be present with them.” 

She encouraged the class to accept that they can’t know it all but to do their best and to take care of themselves; when navigating challenging situations, assume good intentions and trust that each person is doing their best, but be mindful of the impact that actions carry.  

Mosulishvili closed with a favorite quote: “’If we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored. One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.’ I hope you remain anchored, enjoy the journey, and embrace all the new ways of seeing. We are so glad you are here.” 

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Photos by Mark Washburn

Faculty speaker Charles R. Thomas, Jr., MD, D ’79, a professor of medicine and chief of the Section of Radiation Oncology at Dartmouth Cancer Center, talked about the importance of and commitment to patient-centered care. Framing his remarks around the phrase, “you mean it, or you don’t,” Thomas reminded the medical students of the commitment they are making and encouraged them to find common ground with their patients.  

As each medical student crossed the stage to don their white coat, they acknowledged and thanked those who gave them unwavering support and helped them on their path to medical school. 

In addition to the traditional notes from Geisel alumni tucked into the pocket of each white coat, this year alumni and friends again provided both the white coats and stethoscopes given to each student. 

Since the Geisel School of Medicine’s founding in 1797, the Class of 2026 is the school’s 226th MD class. 

If you missed the livestream White Coat ceremony for family and friends unable to attend in person, you may watch a video of the celebration below.