OHSU welcomes M.D. Class of 2022 at White Coat Ceremony

Aug. 10, 2018

student receiving his white coatThe 160 members of OHSU's 131st entering medical class gathered at the Oregon Convention Center Friday, first staged in a packed waiting room before filing into the Oregon Ballroom to formally receive the white coats that mark them as student healers.

David Mansoor, M.D. '04, R '08 F '09, associate professor of psychiatry, OHSU School of Medicine, and this year's presenter of the J.S. Reinschmidt, M.D., Lecture, outlined the history and significance of the white coat "Like many medical inventions the white coat was born out of practicality, only later to become a universal symbol of the medical profession," said Dr. Mansoor.

Initially, white coats were chosen because they "showed soiling and could be washed under high heat without fading. They were worn in effort to create sanitary work conditions, and also to protect the patient and physician from contamination." Over time, health care moved from homes to hospitals, and medical advances resulted in better patient outcomes – eventually resulting in a patient phenomenon known as white coat syndrome. "The white coat emerged as a symbol of knowledge and of health."

Tracy Bumsted, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for undergraduate medical education, OHSU School of Medicine, emceed the event, and began with an overview of the incoming class's demographics.

 Stat Shot: See the numbers on the Class of 2022

Dr. Bumsted revisited the Transition to Medical School course students went through earlier in the week, and advised "start right now with the end in mind. Think about your desired outcome – when everything is said and done, what does success look like for you?"

students at white coat

George Mejicano, M.D., senior associate dean for education, OHSU School of Medicine, spoke about the professions of medicine and education as both being "an interwoven blend of science and art." From a faculty standpoint, he said: "Please know that we are deeply committed to helping you achieve your dream of becoming a physician, and that we will endeavor to best prepare you to provide both compassionate and competent care to the communities you will eventually serve."

OHSU School of Medicine Dean Sharon Anderson addressed the crowd and acknowledged the transformations OHSU is creating in medical education. "Now more than ever and especially at OHSU, medical school is more of a dialogue between students and faculty, like a conversation that happens when walking side by side," said Dean Anderson. "Because if you're going to confront and solve access to health care for everyone and persistent disparities in health between different groups, we need you to be bold. And you're showing us that you are up to the challenge."

Observed by medical schools across the country, the White Coat ceremony is a time for incoming students, faculty, teachers, mentors, alumni and the medical community at large to gather in celebration and support. Experienced professionals join the new students in reciting the Oath of Geneva, led this year by Megan Furnari, M.D., M.S., instructor of pediatrics, OHSU School of Medicine, and director of medical student wellness and leadership development. Dr. Furnari shared this advice with incoming students: "The journey to becoming a doctor is hard and will present deep challenges, obstacles, and demands on your time, mental capacity and identity. But for every one of those difficult moments, there is joy and awe."

Dr. Furnari also introduced the history of the Oath: rather than a static, unchanging vow, the Oath of Geneva is a living commitment that was most recently revised in 2017 to include a commitment to personal wellness: "I will attend to my own health, well-being, and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard."

Entering student Alec Berman received a new stethoscope at the reception, a gift from his former lab group in the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences. "Today I felt honored reciting the Oath of Geneva alongside my peers and faculty, as well as the other physicians in the crowd," Berman said. "I'm deeply humbled to be entrusted with the responsibilities of the profession, and more than anything eager to embark on the journey!"

Cassandra Kasten-Arias

The Class of 2022 also includes Cassandra Kasten-Arias, who is interested in becoming a primary care physician to care for marginalized communities such as immigrants and those with limited English proficiency. "It's very exciting," said Kasten-Arias. "I've been dreaming about this for a long time."

Photos, from top:

  • Heng Chen waves to the crowd after he dons a white coat, assisted by Ben Schneider, M.D., assistant dean for undergraduate medical education student affairs. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)
  • (Left to right) Medical students Sarina Chaiken, Joseph Nugent, Gina Phillipi and Emily Mitchell celebrate after receiving their white coats. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)
  • Medical student Cassandra Kasten-Arias hugs her mother Guadalupe Arias. Kasten-Arias is receiving a full scholarship through OHSU’s Scholars for a Healthy Oregon Initiative, which enables students to address health care disparity in the state. Kasten-Arias plans to stay in Oregon and serve underrepresented patients here. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)