It was a hot afternoon Aug. 12, but spirits were high when a procession of first-year Keck School of Medicine of USC students entered an enormous white tent on the Broad Lawn. They were there to receive some words of wisdom from faculty leadership and — for the first time — don the white coats that are emblematic of their new careers in medicine.
“The white coat that you will receive today is a symbol of the oath that you will take to be a physician. It represents an extraordinary privilege and solemn responsibility that comes along with an ability to heal and serve our community,” said Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, interim dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC and director of the USC Gayle and Edward Roski Eye Institute.
The white coat ceremony, carried out annually at the beginning of the school year, is celebratory but weighty, an important milestone that signifies the beginning of their medical career.
The students, their families and the many faculty and staff members in attendance were welcomed by Henri Ford, MD, MHA, vice dean for medical education at the Keck School, who spoke of both the challenges and positive experiences to come in medical school and medical practice.
This year’s keynote speaker, Jo Marie Reilly, MD, associate professor of clinical family medicine at the Keck School, gave further context as to why this tradition is important. “The white coat ceremony is a time-honored tradition across all U.S. medical schools,” she stated in her address. “It’s an opportunity for families and friends and our medical community to come together to bear witness and to celebrate all of you as new medical students who begin their journey as physicians.”
Varma, Ford, Donna Elliott, MD, EdD, senior associate dean for student and educational affairs, and Raquel Arias, MD, MPH, associate dean of admissions, helped the students put on the coats and welcomed them into the world of medicine with a handshake and a smile.
In addition, several teaching awards were presented, along with an acknowledgment of the Master Teachers, faculty members who have been nominated in three separate academic years by medical students for excellence and commitment to teaching.
— Story by Amanda Busick, Photos by Ricardo Carrasco III