The UC Davis School of Medicine welcomed the next generation of future doctors on Sunday during an induction program where nearly 130 students, in remote locations connected by video stream, put on their white coats to the raucous cheers of family and friends.
The annual program, also known as the white coat ceremony, is the recognition that the arduous journey of medical school has officially begun.
“We are very proud of the class of 2024, an exceptionally talented, diverse and dedicated group of young people,” said Mark Servis, vice dean for medical education. “You have worked hard and achieved great things to get to this point, supported by your family members, friends and loved ones gathered with you here today.”
About 7,000 students applied to the School of Medicine and 127 enrolled.
Servis and eight other speakers participated from Betty Irene Moore Hall on the Sacramento campus in a Zoom conference with students in their homes, which in turn was rebroadcast live on a Facebook feed. By the next afternoon, the feed had logged more than 13,000 views.
Senior student speaker Esther Kang, in their fourth year of medical school, encouraged students to recognize the people who paved the way to their educational success.
“For me, as a queer, non-binary immigrant of color, I’ve been lucky to have been nourished by many loving and resilient communities,” Kang said. Kang's mother in Korea couldn’t become a doctor due to poverty and gender. Kang’s grandmother walked 20 miles round trip to secretly learn how to read and write.
“Pursuing medicine was and will always be an honor for my family and community. As you journey through medical school, I hope you remember your own story, not only where you come from, but all those who nourished you and led the way for you,” Kang said. “And remember all those that couldn’t be with you today because of the systemic inequities that make it impossible for them to do so.”
The coronavirus pandemic, Kang added, has exposed many inequities. Kang urged students to work toward understanding systemic issues when caring for patients.
Keynote speaker Kevin Mullins, assistant clinical professor in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, told students of the “little secret” that makes UC Davis School of Medicine so special:
“The amazing people, the incredibly diverse culture, and the overwhelming sense of community for all that has been instilled throughout this institution.”
School of Medicine Dean Allison Brashear predicted that the school year will be “exciting and transformative” as the pandemic underscores “the vital importance of our mission: to eliminate health inequities.”
Once the speeches ended, the cameras turned to the students for the highlight of the ceremony – the moment they wore their white coat with a stethoscope placed over their shoulders.
Last year’s new class of medical students was accompanied by mariachi trumpets as they marched two-by-two from Moore Hall to a large tent across the street from the Education Building to take their place before hundreds of supporters.
In this year’s virtual induction, students were seated and standing in apartments, houses and backyards, the vast majority surrounded by grandparents, parents, spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends. On cue, a supporter would help put the white coat through their beloved student’s arms, who then faced the camera to say a few touching words.
Kayla Alexander: “Thank you to Jesus, my family and friends… mentors and mentees and my entire village, love you all!”
Rawlings Lyle: He leaned into the camera, removed his face mask and began to thank family and friends, while streamers flew in the background. “I wouldn’t have been able to make it here without you, thank you, I love you guys.” He then blew a kiss at the screen.
Lynh Nguyen: “I would like to thank my family, my friends and mentors for believing and supporting in me. Two women on each side of her jumped for joy.
Golddy Saldana: After thanking God, her parents and brother, her dad popped open a bottle of champagne, which startled her.
Maria Burgos: “Thank you to all my friends and family, and my friends who have become family, and everyone on this livestream.” She raised her arms and declared, “Sí se puede,” to the loud sounds of cheering fans off camera.
Rikki Samuel: She praised her mom, “who waited over three decades for this day.” Her mom then embraced Samuel.
Lucia Gwarada-Phillips: As she buttoned her coat, she thanked “God, my family, especially my husband, my mom and my dad, and my in-laws.”
Benjamin Yang: “I just want to say thank you to my friends and especially my family for supporting me every step of the way.” Then someone handed him a box of what appeared to be face masks.
Laura Potter: She thanked her “many moms and my incredible sister.” Afterward, her partner Josh walked on screen holding their cat, Oscar. But when Josh celebrated with a loud “whoooo!” and tossed streamers with his left hand, Oscar quickly darted from Josh’s right arm and onto the floor.