White Coat Ceremony Welcomes the Lewis Katz School of Medicine Class of 2026
On August 5, excitement and anticipation animated the Temple Performing Arts Center as family and friends gathered for the presentation of white coats to incoming medical students of the Lewis Katz School of Medicine’s Class of 2026.
“The white coat ceremony is a special tradition that our students will remember throughout their careers,” said Maryellen Gusic, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Education and the ceremony’s master of ceremonies. “Its purpose is to welcome students to the medical profession and, more specifically, to the Lewis Katz School of Medicine family.”
Interim Dean Amy Goldberg, MD, FACS, encouraged the students to embrace their education over the next four years with open minds and hearts.
“Class of 2026, I encourage you to revel in the experiences you are going to have,” said Dr. Goldberg, who is also the George S. Peters, MD, and Louise C. Peters Chair of Surgery and Temple University Health System’s Surgeon-in-Chief. “And do not underestimate the impact you will have as a medical student.”
“Get ready for an education that will teach you to doctor with the full powers of medicine and the full powers of your humanity,” she continued. “This is what the white coat really means.”
A Moving Keynote
Dr. Goldberg, who came to Temple in the 1990s as a resident in general surgery, told the students that she, too, is a “Temple-made” physician.
Another “Temple-made” physician, Roopa Dhatt, MD, delivered the ceremony’s keynote address.
Dr. Dhatt graduated from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine in 2013, and two years later, co-founded the rapidly growing nonprofit, Women in Global Health. With more than 5,500 members, 70,000 supporters, and 41 chapters in 36 countries around the world, Women in Global Health works for equal representation for women in health leadership, promotes equal pay and safe work environments for women health workers, and much, much more – as described in the organization’s website.
As a result of her Temple education, she told the Class, “I am a more effective global advocate because I have my feet on the ground.”
Dr. Dhatt, who is also a practicing internist at Georgetown University Hospital and Assistant Professor at both Georgetown University and the University of Miami, told the students that were inspired to become a doctor and an advocate for health equity after becoming very ill at age nine. She had fallen ill while visiting her grandparents in a part of India where quality healthcare was difficult to access. Still, she was fortunate to be treated at a hospital that employed a pediatric surgeon.
“I stayed in that relatively basic hospital for one month, and I knew I was the lucky one,” she said. “My family could afford care, and I knew I would eventually fly home to the U.S. The fate of the other Indian children on the ward with me was far less certain.”
Today, decades later, equitable access to quality healthcare remains precarious for billions around the world – perhaps even more so in the wake of the COVID pandemic.
“As you start your journey in medicine,” Dr. Dhatt told the Class of 2026, “The world is still gripped by a global pandemic that has killed millions, left many more with long-term illness, increased society’s mental health burden, and has thrown billions deeper into poverty. The pandemic has also left a significant number of healthcare workers burned out and planning to leave the profession.
“However, there has never been a better time to join the medical profession,” she added. “Severe disruption enables us to evaluate what we accept as normal and to imagine a better future.”
Coated and Focused on POCUS
As the names of the members of the Class of 2026 were announced by Dr. Gusic and Shaden Eldakar-Hein, MD ’07, Senior Associate Dean of the school’s St. Luke’s Campus (Bethlehem, PA), the students stepped onstage to be coated by a faculty member, a parent, grandparent, or sibling alumnus, faculty member, or physician from a Temple-affiliated hospital.
Following the recitation of the Oath of Geneva and the class pledge – which the students wrote themselves earlier in the week – Dr. Goldberg surprised the Class with gifts made possible by the generosity of alumni, faculty, and friends of the school.
The first gift was a Temple-branded stethoscope – a modern version of a tool that’s been a staple of medicine for 200 years.
The second gift was a technology predicted to revolutionize the daily practice of medicine: point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS).
POCUS is a small handheld device placed gently on the surface of a patient’s skin that shows real-time images of the anatomy beneath: the beating heart, a breathing lung, an artery flowing with blood, a bone that might be fractured. This amazingly useful tool is predicted to become fundamental to the practice of medicine, helping physicians diagnose a broad range of conditions.
“The Lewis Katz School of Medicine is one of just six medical schools in the country to provide POCUS devices to each first-year medical student,” Dr. Goldberg said.
Students will begin learning POCUS during their first year of medical school, with instruction continuing throughout the curriculum. They will learn how and when to use the device – and how to recognize normal and pathological images.
“POCUS is a paradigm shift, and we need to make sure Katz medical students are well ahead of the curve,” Dr. Goldberg said.
After the ceremony, as students celebrated with family and friends, the phrase “paradigm shift” continued to resonate for Matthew Merlo.
A native of Allentown, PA, Mr. Merlo devoted 12 years to investment and commercial banking and finance before deciding to change his career to medicine. The three years of additional education and preparation it took for him to arrive at this day made his experience of the White Coat ceremony particularly affirming.
He could really feel everyone’s backing — “the administration, faculty, staff and alumni. Encouraging the next generation to step into medicine, giving us their full support is so meaningful, and we are so appreciative,” he said.