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First year medical students at the White Coat Ceremony

A Lesson in Humanism Marks the Beginning

When does a student become a physician? While a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from Northeast Ohio Medical University isn’t awarded until after a student’s successful completion of four years of rigorous studies, tests and clerkships, one key step in the process comes in a ceremony much earlier.

Friday, Aug. 2, the first-year students of the College of Medicine Class of 2023 assembled with their families and friends for the ritual of the White Coat ceremony, a tradition observed throughout the U.S. to mark the date when medicine students put on a physician’s white lab coat for the first time. (At NEOMED, students in the College of Pharmacy will observe their White Coat ceremony on Friday, Aug. 23.)

Jay A. Gershen, D.D.S., Ph.D., welcomed the group, followed by Elisabeth Young, M.D. (’85), dean of the College of Medicine. “You are not alone,” Dr. Young told the students, emphasizing the support that is made available at the University. She urged the students to take good care of their own health and wellness even as they focus on tending to others.

The secret to quality in medicine

The day’s keynote speaker was Titus Sheers, M.D., M.B.A., a professor in the departments of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics who is the chair of medical education and research at Cleveland Clinic Akron General. Dr. Sheers was honored with the 2019 College of Medicine Dean’s Award.

Titus Sheers, M.D., M.B.A.

In his talk, Dr. Sheers spoke about the father of quality improvement in medicine: Avedis Donabedian, M.D., a physician and researcher who developed the Donabedian model for evaluating the quality of health care in the 1960s at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.  The students listened attentively, white jackets folded over their arms.

Dr. Donabedian was onto something, said Dr. Sheers, when he said, “Ultimately, the secret of quality is love. You have to love your patient, you have to love your profession, you have to love your God.”

Support for students

The students got a reminder of the support for them at the University when Dr. Sheers directed them to check the pockets of their white jackets for cards with messages from White Coat donors. Those individuals had given to the University’s Blue Fund in honor of the event.

Student putting on her white coat

A solemn oath

Sandra Emerick, Ed.D., senior executive director of academic affairs and student services, presided over the presentation of white coats, announcing each student as they processed to the front of  the Grand Ballroom to don their jacket. Each was helped by student coaters – second-year students Palvir Baadh, Kaelin Cockrell, William Downing, Poojajeet Khaira, Troy Kotsch and Pallavi Lanka, who were nominated by their peers for the honor.

Eugene Mowad, M.D., vice dean of the College of Medicine, led the students in a group recitation of the Oath of Professional Commitment – perhaps the most important part of the ceremony, with students acknowledging their obligation to care for the patient. Only then it was time for a reception in the lobby to celebrate the day.