White coats mark start of medical student journey

The largest, most diverse class in the OHSU School of Medicine's history celebrated the beginning of their journey to becoming a physician

August 12, 2016

Taking the Oath of Geneva; OHSU White Coat 2016On Aug. 12, 153 future physicians from the OHSU School of Medicine M.D. Class of 2020 – the largest class in the school's history – received their white coat before family, friends and OHSU colleagues. The annual White Coat Ceremony is a celebratory welcome into the health care profession presided over by faculty teachers, mentors and colleagues.

The ritual is observed at many medical schools across the nation as a time-honored rite-of-passage which not only "cloaks" students in the white coat, a symbol of medicine, but through the Oath of Geneva gives students the opportunity to dedicate themselves before others to a lifetime of service. Students were led in the Oath of Geneva by Amy Garcia, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, OHSU School of Medicine.

In addition to being the largest, the M.D. Class of 2020 is the most racially and ethnically diverse ever. Approximately 19 students (12 percent) in the class identify as part of a racial or ethnic group under-represented in medicine: African American, Latino (originating from Mexico, Central or South America, or Caribbean cultures), American Indian/Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander. The School of Medicine also includes in its definition of diversity persons from rural environments and those who have experienced significant disadvantage or adversity.

For every family member and friend who attended on behalf of a newly-coated medical student, there was a story.

Allyson Knapper and familyAfter the ceremony, Ray Guinn was beaming with pride at his granddaughter Allyson Knapper's accomplishment. Mr. Guinn served in the U.S. Navy in the Korean War and then worked 30 years for the VA as an operating room technician. But he always wanted to be a doctor. Now, he said, "she's filling in my footsteps."

Knapper learned about OHSU as a sixth grader at St. Mary's in Portland thanks to the OHSU Center for Diversity and Inclusion's "Your Opportunities in Science" program. Smiling big along with her parents, she said, "You work so hard in college. It's great to finally be here."

Daniel Stone and family, friendSteve Koester, M.D., a family doctor for 30 years in Eugene, came to see the University of Oregon undergrad who had attached himself to Dr. Koester make this rite of passage. Daniel Stone signed up to shadow Dr. Koester his junior year and just kept coming back. Dr. Koester said the ceremony captured the spirit and the humanity of medicine as a calling. He posed for pictures with Mr. Stone and his parents after the ceremony.

"I feel wonderful for him," Dr. Koester said. "He'll be a great doctor."

This is the third class to embark on OHSU's pioneering M.D. curriculum, YOUR M.D. The curriculum not only breaks down the barriers between knowledge and its application, it helps create lifelong learners with the flexibility to adapt and lead in a changing health care delivery environment.

George Mejicano, M.D., senior associate dean for education, OHSU School of Medicine, spoke of a vision for the future, calling the ceremony "less about what you'll do and more about what you'll become." 

The J.S. "Dutch" Reinschmidt, M.D., Lecture was delivered by Meg O'Reilly, M.D., M.P.H., clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, OHSU School of Medicine. In the lecture titled, "We are a Community of Healers," Dr. O'Reilly spoke to students about the "amazing ride" on which they are embarking. "Put the patient first –always. You will be rewarded for this one hundred-fold," she said.

In closing, Dr. O'Reilly said she hopes each member of the class find a specialty "that makes you feel like you were born to do what you are doing."


(top) The M.D. Class of 2020 recites the Oath of Geneva.

(middle) Ray Guinn, far left, grandfather to incoming student Allyson Knapper, smiles along with the Knapper family.

(bottom) Dr. Steve Koester (second from right) poses with incoming student Daniel Stone and family.

  • By the numbers

  • Of the 153 class members, 128 – or 84 percent – are from Oregon or have an Oregon heritage. 
  • Nearly 30 percent of entering students report having come from a racial or ethnic background other than Caucasian.
  • Approximately 24 percent of students come from a rural background.
  • Seven students will participate in the joint M.D./M.P.H. program and five will join the M.D./Ph.D. program.

OHSU White Coat 2016

OHSU White Coat 2016