The Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine (KPSOM) held its first White Coat Ceremony on October 13. At the ceremony, students are welcomed by their deans and other leaders who represent the medical school and the medical profession. During the event, a short white coat is typically placed on each student’s shoulders and an oath read, signifying their entrance into their medical training. The white coat ceremony, created by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 1993, is a rite of passage for medical students in events across the United States and offers them a chance to reflect on their fundamental responsibility to care, heal, and protect others.
Given the pandemic and the need for physical distancing, the KPSOM event was re-imagined as a virtual gathering open to the entire school community, as well as invited family and friends, with students sharing their perceptions of the meaning of their white coats. Students were also able to personally thank those who have supported them on their journey to becoming medical professionals.
“It was incredibly moving to experience our school’s very first white coat ceremony with our students, their families and friends, and our school community,” said Mark A. Schuster, MD, PhD, founding dean and CEO. “I’m thrilled to have each and every one of our students here at our school.”
The event also included the recitation of the Community Agreement, which was created and formally adopted by the class on August 14. The agreement articulates how the students wish to learn together at KPSOM, touching upon their commitment to celebrate and promote diversity; establish a collaborative and supportive learning environment; and hold themselves and their peers accountable to actively challenge systemic inequalities.
“Our school’s students should wear their white coats proudly as they embark on their training as future physician leaders,” said Holly J. Humphrey, MD, chair of the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine Board of Directors. “This is an incredible and dynamic group, and the Board is thrilled to see our class start its journey.”
At the event, Schuster was joined by KPSOM and Kaiser Permanente leaders who took part in key moments of the ceremony. Following the recitation of the Physician Oath by Schuster and faculty leaders, Greg A. Adams, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. and Hospitals, presented students with commemorative class pins. Edward M. Ellison, MD, executive medical director and chairman of the board, Southern California Permanente Medical Group and Co−CEO, The Permanente Federation, then shared his thoughts on the significance of the occasion.
The Class of 2024 is diverse in many ways, which reflects KPSOM’s mission to educate physicians from diverse backgrounds who will become outstanding clinicians and skilled advocates for the health of their patients and communities. Of the 50-member class, 36 percent are from racial or ethnic backgrounds that are underrepresented in medicine, and 34 percent are from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. In addition, 50 percent are from outside of California.
“While COVID-19 required us to recreate our white coat ceremony as a virtual celebration, it was no less significant,” said Anne M. Eacker, MD, senior associate dean for student affairs. “If anything, the commitment our students continue to make to a career in healthcare during the current crisis emphasized the momentous nature of the milestone event.”