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New Class of Students Begin Medical School Training at UCSF

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By Karin Fleming

After an exciting week of orientation and lectures, this year’s incoming class of UCSF medical students began their first day of medical school training last Friday, with the White Coat Ceremony marking their rite of passage into the medical profession.

Supported by hundreds of family, friends, and classmates gathered at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, the 149 first-year students—selected from almost 8,000 applicants—donned white coats and vowed to maintain professional attitudes and behaviors in work and in relationships with their peers, teachers, patients, and the community.

Catherine Lucey, MD, Executive Vice Dean, Vice Dean for Education, and Professor of Medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine welcomed the students to the top-ranked medical school.

“You were selected into UCSF’s School of Medicine as part of our search for future health care leaders, those who are relentlessly curious and driven to help solve health care challenges, who understand the importance of interprofessional teams, and who are committed to erasing health care injustices. We sought people who take initiative, solve problems, question the status quo, and organize people to support a cause,” said Dr. Lucey. “Collectively, you hold these qualities and a wealth of individual talents. As you embrace the future, hold onto these qualities to enhance the lives of patients everywhere.”

Each with a different path that led to their entry into medical school, this year’s incoming class is comprised of medical students from 18 countries, with undergraduate training at almost 60 universities and colleges across the U.S., and who have wide-ranging work, mentoring, community service and research experiences. Forty percent of the new class are learners who are underrepresented in medicine, and 53% are women.

Dr. Lucey’s remarks were followed by a keynote address by Kevin Grumbach, MD, Chair of Family and Community Medicine, and UCSF alum. Reflecting on the work of poet and physician William Carlos Williams, Dr. Grumbach encouraged students to listen to the ‘inner poem’ of their patients. “Poems spring from the words of patients after a lifetime of careful listening. You will find your own sensibilities in listening to your patient’s poems. They will speak to you about the humanity and meaning of being a physician. This is a great privilege—the essence of the human condition.”

Poised to be future 21st century physicians, the students were called to the stage and presented with 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.

To mark the beginning of their journey through medical school, the students were led by Anna Chang, MD, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Bridges Curriculum Clinical Microsystems Clerkship, in reciting the 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.

We asked some of the new first-year students to comment on their early days of training in the School of Medicine:

What are you most looking forward to, during your medical school career at UCSF?

“I am most looking forward to the opportunity to learn and grow with the wonderful community at UCSF and in San Francisco. I have been utterly amazed and inspired by the classmates, patients, physicians, and community organizers I've met so far. I can't wait.” Jordan McDonald

“I look forward to working with the underserved community in San Francisco and finding ways in which I can improve their quality of health care. I hope to become a better educator and to engage in several areas of medical education. Lastly, I hope to gain skills that will help me make a lasting contribution to the community and health care system, both at UCSF and throughout the United States.” Leslie Charondo


“At UCSF, it is not just about the physician you want to be. It is about the person you want to be and creating an environment where the person you are can positively impact the physician you become. I think of the white coat ceremony as a celebration of who we are in this moment in our lives, as well as who we aspire to be. We are celebrating all the individuals and experiences that have brought us to this point and all those we hope to support, throughout our lives, through our service and our dedication to being the best physicians we can be.” Devi Beck-Pancer

What does the white coat symbolize, for you personally, in the context of your goals to be a physician?

“The white coat is a symbol of the journey I am on to achieve my goals in medicine: to address and help reduce health disparities for underserved communities. It's a wonderful honor and privilege to wear the white coat at this stage of my training.” Jordan McDonald

“The white coat symbolizes the patient's trust in me, as their medical professional, and my responsibility to provide personable, compassionate health care to the community. It symbolizes judgment-free health care that prioritizes the patient's needs and wishes.” Leslie Charondo