The University of Illinois College of Medicine celebrated 325 first-year medical students during White Coat ceremonies across the campuses at Chicago, Peoria and Rockford.
The Chicago campus, with 209 first-year students, held its White Coat Ceremony on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, at the Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum. In order to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, two separate ceremonies took place, with students receiving their white coats based on their Physician House assignment.
The College of Medicine Peoria campus celebrated 64 M1 students during its White Coat Ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 14, while the Rockford campus celebrated 52 first-year medical students on Saturday, Aug. 21.
“Medical school will present you with some of your greatest challenges in life thus far, and also your greatest triumphs,” said University of Illinois College of Medicine Executive Dean Mark Rosenblatt, MD, PhD, MBA, MHA. “There will be times of laughter, times when you shed tears, times when you feel joy and times when you feel sorrow. You’ll experience many of these emotions with those in attendance here – your new peers – and also with patients and their families. Each day will bring something new.”
For those unable to attend in person because of COVID-19 capacity guidelines, the events were livestreamed and are available for viewing.
The White Coat Ceremony was the first of its kind at the College of Medicine since August of 2019. Last year’s White Coat Ceremony was postponed because of the pandemic. Those students will celebrate their White Coat Ceremony as third-year students transitioning into full-time clinical experiences.
“The last 18 months (during the pandemic) have shown us that the world needs you,” College of Medicine Peoria Dean Meenakshy Aiyer, MD, FACP, said. “We need eager bright minds, understanding and caring hearts and your innovative and creative spirits.”
The White Coat Ceremony is a traditional symbolic entry into the medical profession for first-year medical students.
“You’re now seen as a member of a noble and altruistic and healing profession,” College of Medicine Rockford Dean Alex Stagnaro-Green, MD, MHPE, MHA, said. “When you walk into a hospital room, what they see is a member of the healthcare team walking into that room. With that comes tremendous responsibility and the beginnings of your journey into the wonderful profession of medicine.”
In receiving the white coat, students publicly acknowledge and recognize their obligations to the profession. They also sign the Professionalism in Medicine book after receiving their white coat.
“I’m the first in my whole family to go to medical school, and it’s really exciting and a huge honor,” Chicago native Aasiya Cummings said. “I’m just excited to get started and start learning. Since I was young, I always dressed up in the doctor stuff and all that. As I got older, I learned what it means to be a doctor and the qualities that it takes to be a doctor.”
Myles Bosompem recently moved to Chicago and, hailing from outside Los Angeles, is living away from California for the first time in his life.
“This is the first step in achieving a dream,” Bosompem said. “Being here in person and having my family watch means a lot to me and it means a lot to them. It seems unreal, but it feels good, and I’m happy to be here.”
Mahesh Patel, MD, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at the College of Medicine, gave the keynote address at the Chicago ceremony. He spoke of his own anxiety about attending medical school, telling the first-year students it’s OK to have trepidations.
“Over the years, I’ve learned to think of these transitions as times of transformation,” Dr. Patel said. “That’s what transitions are, aren’t they? A time when events in your life transform you as person, transform you into someone with a new set of ideas and beliefs. Without having gone through periods of transformation, we would not be who we are today.”