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White Coat Ceremony Sparks Journey of Lifelong Learning

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white coat ceremony with students reading declaration
First-year medical students Alexander Aabedi, Sheyda Aboii and fellow students read the UCSF Physician Declaration at the 2017 White Coat Ceremony held at Herbst Theater.
Photos: Elisabeth Fall

By Karin Fleming

After an exciting week of orientation and lectures, this year’s incoming class of UCSF medical students began their official training last Friday with the White Coat Ceremony.

Surrounded by hundreds of family, friends, and classmates at Herbst Theater, the first-year students—selected from more than 8,000 applicants—donned their white coats. Together, they vowed to maintain professional attitudes and behaviors in work and in relationships with their peers, teachers, patients and the community.

Talmadge E. King Jr., MD, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine, welcomed the students to the top-ranked medical school.

"This marks the beginning of your exciting medical career. You hold the qualities that distinguish a future UCSF physician: a strong sense of purpose, a passion for making a lasting impact in medicine, a mind driven by relentless curiosity and a deep commitment to service,” said Dr. King.

“During your time at UCSF, you will learn how to provide compassionate care, serving patients to restore health, prevent disease, and ease suffering. You will investigate questions, contribute to scientific knowledge and make a commitment to lifelong learning. You will understand the value of working in integrated teams where each individual contributes their skills for the benefit of our patients. You will work with our communities to ensure that all patients have equal access to the same quality of personal care you would wish for your families.”

white coat group smiling
Big day, bright futures.

Each with a different path that led to medical school, this year’s incoming class is comprised of medical students from 18 countries of birth, with undergraduate training at almost 60 universities and colleges across the U.S., and wide-ranging work, mentoring, community service and research experiences.

One by one, the students were called on stage and given white coats by Karen Hauer, MD, associate dean for assessment, Lee Jones, MD, associate dean for students, David Wofsy, MD, associate dean for admissions, and John Davis, MD, PhD, associate dean for curriculum.

First year students Juhi and Miguel
First-year students Juhi Varshney and Miguel Millares Chavez.

“As I don this white coat, I reflect on the reasons that fueled my drive to pursue medical school: being at the forefront of efforts to ensure adequate care for underserved communities,” said first-year student Miguel Millares Chavez. “I know that—with the education that the UCSF School of Medicine provides and the values our community cherishes—I can realize my vision of being a physician dedicated to ensuring all patients receive responsible levels of healthcare.”

“I'm most excited to grow into the physician, advocate, and leader that I've always hoped to be, and I already feel so supported by the UCSF community as I begin this endeavor,” said first-year medical student Juhi Varshney.

To mark the beginning of their journey through medical school, the students recited the UCSF physician declaration: a modern version of the traditional oath. This declaration reflects core principles that physicians worldwide have agreed on.

It includes the pledge to care for all patients equally, to oppose infringements on human rights, and to work towards a fair distribution of health resources.

“At the UCSF School of Medicine and UCSF at large, we have a long history of social activism. We count on you as partners as we continue to eliminate discrimination, whether based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, religion or any other category,” said Dr. King, citing the school’s goal to make UCSF the most diverse, equitable and inclusive academic medical system nationwide.

“We will partner with you to continuously improve a learning environment that is exciting, challenging and inclusive. At the end of your training, you will emerge as UCSF physicians ready to tackle the greatest healthcare challenges of our time.”

white coat ceremony handshake
Dean Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD greets first-year medical student Sapphire Ear.