White Coat Ceremony Welcomes the Class of 2021
Medical school is bookended by two distinct events – the White Coat Ceremony when students arrive on campus to begin their studies, and Match Day as they prepare to leave four years later for their residencies. Both days bubble over with feelings of excitement, anticipation and, if they are being totally honest, a smidgeon of anxiety.
On August 4, the Lewis Katz School of Medicine (LKSOM) symbolically welcomed the Class of 2021 to Temple by presenting students with their first white coats. The annual White Coat Ceremony signifies the beginning of a student’s journey to becoming a full-fledged physician while the white coat symbolizes professionalism, caring and trust.
This year’s incoming 208 students arrive at LKSOM from 103 undergraduate institutions and were chosen from 10,883 applicants. They are a diverse group that hails from 21 states and numerous countries around the world.
Gerald Sterling, PhD, LKSOM’s Senior Associate Dean for Education served as the event’s Master of Ceremonies. Larry Kaiser, MD, FACS, Dean of LKSOM and President and CEO of Temple University Health System, welcomed the students by jokingly assuring them that “the Russians had nothing to do with your admission.” He went on to speak to the crowd about the school’s namesake, Lewis Katz, and about the profession of medicine.
“From the moment you put on that white coat this morning, you become part of a great and revered profession and all that goes with it,” he said. “No matter what changes may come, the standards of conduct and principles that define this profession will endure.”
Special guest Drew Katz, JD, took time away from his family vacation to attend the event and speak to the students about his late father.
“He could have chosen any school to support, but he chose your school because this is where he felt his contribution could do the most good and this school embodied the same value system that he had,” Katz said. “Put Temple’s value system into practice while you are here, and when you pass by my father’s portrait in the lobby make sure to say hi to my pops.”
Keynote speaker and 1974 LKSOM graduate Mark Creager, MD, FAHA, FACC, spoke to the students about his time at Temple and how “anxiety gives way to competence over time.” Dr. Creager is Professor of Medicine and Professor of Surgery at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and Director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He is also past President of the American Heart Association.
“I am here today as both a grateful alumnus and the proud parent of an incoming student,” said Dr. Creager, who coated his son, Michael, during the ceremony. He went on to offer students eight essential principles to guide them through medical school and their careers. These ranged from following your passion and finding mentors to remaining humble and never comprising your integrity, “it’s the keystone of medicine.”
Following the remarks, it was time to be cloaked in their white coats by members of the LKSOM faculty. One of those on stage was Tessa Livadas Connelly, whose husband Dan let out a loud “whoop” when her name was called. Dan was holding their young son Theo and was beaming with pride at his wife’s accomplishment.
“It was a long road for her,” he said. “She wasn’t accepted into medical school after college and worked as a scribe in an ER. She decided to take another shot at it while pregnant with our son…she literally finished the application while she was in labor. In April she interviewed at Temple, and we were on our way to Greece to visit family seven weeks ago when she got the call telling her she was accepted. We uprooted everything to move here. I couldn’t be prouder of her.”
Other notable “coatings” included 1959 LKSOM graduate Fred Honigman, MD, who slipped the white coat on his grandson, Jordan Siegel; Ellen Myers, who coated granddaughter Alexandra Myers in honor of LKSOM Dean Emeritus Allen Myers, MD; and Steven Houser, PhD, who cloaked his future son-in-law, Joshua Kiehl (“No pressure, Joshua,” quipped Dr. Sterling).
Dr. Kaiser later presented the students with stethoscopes donated by faculty, alumni, friends and members of the Board of Visitors. Each came with a personal note from the funder, enabling the student and gift giver to make contact.
The ceremony also featured an induction of 42 upper-year medical students into the Gold Humanism in Medicine Society led by Jonathan Kersun, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Behavioral Health.