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KU School of Medicine ushers in class of 2023 with White Coat Ceremony

August 06, 2019

By Leilana McKindra

2019 White Coat Ceremony

The University of Kansas School of Medicine welcomed the class of 2023 to the profession with the traditional White Coat Ceremony July 26 at Memorial Hall in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

It was a milestone day for the 211 first-year students who were cloaked in white coats, a recognized symbol of the profession of medicine, during the annual rite of passage while family and friends were in attendance.

"There are so many emotions," said Casandra Elver, who has attended the ceremony in back-to-back years supporting her nephew, Brandon Kannady, who was coated this year, and her daughter, Ashlie Elver, who crossed the stage in 2018 and served as an usher at this year's ceremony. "We are proud. We love them dearly and wish them both the best. We can't wait until they get out into the community and help others."

In the keynote address, Robert D. Simari, M.D., executive vice chancellor, University of Kansas Medical Center, said students are entering the field during a time of great change in the school, in the practice of medicine and in the world, all of which will affect their personal and professional lives.

In reflecting on those changes, Simari noted that this is the third year of the medical school's innovative ACE curriculum. Designed with input from more than 250 faculty and students, the curriculum utilizes active learning (interactive and group activities related to the material), focuses on the importance of competencies with defined methods of assessment, and guides students in achieving excellence in their desired areas of interest.

Meanwhile, students are entering the profession in a time in which patients expect individualized care based on their unique genetic backgrounds, Simari said, and students will not only need to master large genetic databases to provide that individual care, but also find ways to harness technology while maintaining compassion, integrity and humility.

Also, in a rapidly changing world, Simari noted that the assumption when he was in medical school that medical care determined health is no longer accurate.

"The distribution of wealth is the primary determinant of health in our country. A greater understanding of the social determinants of health will drive how you treat individual patients, but also how you might manage a panel of patients. If you, as a physician, are responsible for the health of your patients, you must consider how you can impact their lives outside of traditional health care," he said. "From this day on, your lives will take on a very profound and singular goal...to reduce human suffering."

Simari also emphasized to students the importance of life-long self-care.

"You are the hope of a brighter future, and the white coats represent the hope and trust that we place in you," Simari said. "I beg of you, we only go this way once. Please enjoy the ride. Your capacity to learn and your health are linked. We want you to be successful, but we want you to be healthy even more. While today we put on your white coat as a sign of your commitment to reduce human suffering, please find time to take off the white coat to prevent the kind of suffering that accompanies burnout, depression or worse."

The White Coat Ceremony capped first-year students' orientation week, which included engaging in community service projects across Wyandotte County.

M1 Cormac Prosser enjoyed building a wall for an educational soil exhibit at Splitlog Farm, an urban farm near downtown Kansas City, Kansas. "It was so much fun to work together and get to know people. I am excited for this whole week, but especially for the White Coat Ceremony. I invited all of my friends and my entire family."

Meanwhile, for fellow M1 Loza Kebret, an Olathe native who was valedictorian at Olathe Northwest High School, the White Coat Ceremony represents an important step in her lifelong dream of becoming a physician.

"My parents are immigrants from Ethiopia, and I knew I wanted to be a doctor when I visited Ethiopia and saw people who were sick, but couldn't see a doctor," she said. "As an undergrad at Stanford, I led a medical mission trip to Nicaragua. I am passionate about serving underserved communities, especially those without access to health care."

During the ceremony, each student received a personalized white coat and a pin representing one of eight medical alumni societies, then each signed the Honor Code Book. Each white coat came with a Keeping Healthcare Human pin, a gift from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, initiators of the White Coat Ceremony. In unison, the class recited the Oath of Commitment, affirming their commitment to upholding high standards of professionalism and patient care.

Doctors' Notes, an a capella musical group made up of students attending the KU Medical Center School of Medicine, performed "Go the Distance" to open the ceremony.

The class of 2023 comprises students from 33 counties in Kansas and 13 other states, representing 41 undergraduate majors, 11 master's degrees and three doctorates. Diverse in background and work and volunteer experiences, including working in the Alaskan oilfields, cosmetology and farming, this year's incoming class is credited with more than 60,000 hours of community service with significant local, national and international impact.

"Growing up in McPherson, I just wanted to get out of a rural area. Then I spent two weeks on a medical trip to Tanzania and it helped me think about health disparities," said M1 Collin Harvey, who completed his undergraduate studies at KU. "I also shadowed a family doctor in high school. I liked how he built a relationship with his patients over time and I saw how much good he could do by being caring and personable. And now that's what I want to do, I want to practice rural medicine. You can make such a difference."

Last modified: Aug 06, 2019
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