FAU’s New Medical Students Pledge to Combat Healthcare Disparities

Medical School, Medical Students, Doctor's White Coat, White Coat Ceremony

The 65 students in the incoming class of 2020 were selected from a diverse and highly accomplished group of 3,750 applicants.

By gisele galoustian | 8/13/2020

Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine recently celebrated its 10th White Coat Ceremony virtually to welcome its incoming class of 2020. This time-honored event is celebrated at medical schools around the nation and symbolizes entry into the medical profession as medical students are cloaked with their first doctor’s white coat. For more than a century, the white coat has been the symbol of the medical doctor. 

“The fact that we are celebrating virtually because of a global pandemic that has exposed widespread healthcare disparities reminds us of our collective obligation to addressing inequities in health care,” said Phillip M. Boiselle, M.D., dean of FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine. “As the newest members of the Schmidt College of Medicine, you are joining a community that is committed to addressing healthcare disparities and inequities, to promoting social justice, and to confronting discrimination and bias in all forms. I am delighted to welcome you into our vibrant, diverse and inclusive community and excited that you are joining us as we carry out this important work together.” 

The 65 students in the incoming class of 2020 were selected from a diverse and highly accomplished group of 3,750 applicants. Twenty-three percent of the class represent racial and ethnic populations underrepresented in medicine, which will help to advance the medical school’s mission to enhance diversity in the physician workforce. Almost 60 percent of the class is female; approximately 40 percent is male. Sixty-six percent of the class members are from Florida and 34 percent are from out-of-state. Seventeen members of the class received their bachelor’s or master’s degrees from FAU.

This year’s keynote speaker was Damon Tweedy, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine; staff psychiatrist at the Durham VA Health Care System; and author of the New York Times bestseller, “Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine.” Tweedy shared his personal journey through medicine and provided pearls of wisdom based on his experience since donning his first doctor’s white coat 24 years ago (view keynote). Each member of the incoming class received a copy of Tweedy’s bestseller to engage them in thoughtful discussions about race in medicine.

“Class of 2024, you have received your first doctor’s white coat and you have now placed yourself in the service of humankind,” said Stuart L. Markowitz, M.D., senior associate dean for student affairs in FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine. “You have chosen a noble profession and we wish you every success in your education, training and in your life as a physician. This is the first step on a journey that will be both exciting and frustrating, but will be the most rewarding journey you will ever embark upon. On behalf of all of us in the Schmidt College of Medicine we welcome you on this journey.”

 Sarah K. Wood, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education and Jennifer W. Caceres, M.D., associate dean for student affairs and admissions, both in FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine, also provided welcoming remarks for FAU’s newest medical students.

“As you put on your brand-new white coat today, with its weight of responsibility as well as promise of hope and opportunity, feel proud because you are joining the community of health care heroes,” said Wood. “Our faculty and staff will be proudly watching, supporting and guiding you to become the talented and dedicated physicians you are destined to become.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, several members of the incoming class recited an “oath of compassion,” which they collectively wrote. In portions of their oath, the students pledge to “be culturally sensitive toward our peers and patients;” “embody anti-racism while actively combating healthcare disparities;” and “commit ourselves to continually expanding our medical and cultural knowledge to benefit our patients.” Patterned after the Hippocratic Oath, the incoming class of 2020 will uphold their oath throughout medical school and throughout their careers as physicians.  

For the first time, the White Coats-4-Care donor event was combined with the virtual White Coat Ceremony. For 10 years, Bonnie and Jon Kaye, Kaye Communications, Inc., have hosted White Coats-4-Care, raising more than $700,000 to welcome approximately 600 medical students to the Schmidt College of Medicine. In addition, through the leadership of Michael T.B. Dennis, M.D., chair of the medical school’s advisory board and a member of the FAU Board of Trustees, each new medical student received their first stethoscope, generously donated by the Palm Beach County Medical Society. The stethoscope, a vital tool for conducting physical examinations, is one of the most enduring symbols of the medical profession.

Most of the major colleges in Florida are represented in the incoming class of 2020 in addition to  universities nationwide including Boston University; Cornell University; Duke University; Emory University; University of California–Berkeley; University of California–Los Angeles; Vanderbilt University; Yale University; Johns Hopkins University; and Wake Forest University. Although most of the class members majored in traditional pre-med subjects, the class also is comprised of students with humanities and social science degrees, in keeping with the college’s recognition last year by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top medical schools in the country for liberal arts majors.

As part of orientation week, FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine also hosted a drive-by parade to welcome and equip the 65 incoming students. Due to the pandemic, the incoming class of 2020 was not required to move to South Florida. Seventeen members of the class will participate out-of-state for the fall semester.

The White Coat Ceremony was founded in 1993 by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. The Foundation concluded that the beginning of a student’s journey into medicine is the best time to influence standards of professionalism, humanistic values and behavior.