School of Medicine

White coats, bright futures

Dr. Howard J. Federoff with student at white coat ceremony.
Photo credit: Eveline Shih-Pitcairn
Dr. Howard J. Federoff with student at white coat ceremony.

Ceremony for new medical students marks first step in journey to become doctors

If a journey of a lifetime starts with a single step, for UC Irvine Health medical students that first stride took place on the Irvine Barclay Theatre stage before friends, family and fellow classmates to receive their first physician’s white coat.

On the evening of Aug. 7, the 104 students constituting the Class of 2019 formed for the first time to participate in the White Coat Ceremony before an estimated 650 well-wishers.

The event is a both a celebratory and solemn rite of passage, where these future physicians recited the medical student oath and received a pin from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation to seal their commitment to provide compassionate and excellent care.

“The White Coat Ceremony is unique in that it celebrates both the end of a long admissions process and the beginning of their professional career,” said Dr. Ellena Peterson, the School of Medicine’s associate dean of admissions and outreach. “Having family and friends present to celebrate this transition makes this ceremony even more special. In a sense, it is a reverse graduation, one filled with pride, anticipation and hope for the future.”

Dr. Howard J. Federoff provided the keynote address. Federoff joined UC Irvine in July as the vice chancellor for health affairs and the dean of the School of Medicine, and his White Coat Ceremony talk marks his first public appearance since assuming his current role. His talk touched on a number of topics, such as healthcare being a team sport, the need to empower patients to become better healthcare partners, and the importance for these future doctors to incorporate pace and self-awareness in their clinical careers to avoid burnout.

“The White Coat Ceremony was a benchmark moment in all of our lives that we will remember forever,” said Alexa Love, 25. “It marked the start of an incredible journey we all worked so hard for, and it’s a celebration of what we’ve achieved up to this point. It was so meaningful to have our family and friends to support us at an event that marked the beginning of the next phase of our lives.” 

The ceremony is only part of an orientation process ending with the start of classes on Aug. 10. But more than that, it’s a time when a diverse and driven group of men and women learn about each other and begin to forge lifelong relationships and help lead the transformation of healthcare in the U.S.

“I could not be more excited and thrilled to be starting medical school,” said Tara Zand, 23, who earned her bachelor’s in biological sciences in 2013 at UC Irvine. “This has been a dream of mine since as early as I can remember. And through the many times I feared its impossibility, I now feel incredibly triumphant to be beginning this journey.”

– Tom Vasich, UC Irvine