MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The members of the West Virginia University School of Medicine Class of 2020 medical students donned the most significant symbol of their chosen profession – the white coat – for the first time on Saturday.
During the School of Medicine’s annual John W. Traubert White Coat Ceremony, 105 students in the class were presented with their white coats. Each coat was sponsored by an alumnus of the school, and a note of encouragement from the sponsor was placed in a pocket of the coat for the student.
At WVU, the first White Coat Ceremony was held Jan. 26, 1996. Its tradition differs from the conventional concept in that it honors second-year students and marks the transition from basic sciences to clinical sciences, from reading about illness and disease to diagnosing it, and from learning about treatments to prescribing them. The ceremony stresses the importance of the doctor-patient relationship and the relevance of the white coat as a cloak of compassion.
After suffering a near-fatal gastrointestinal bleed and emergency surgery that saved his life at age 18, Roberto Tellez knew he wanted to be a physician. Tellez, from Galax, Virginia, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Virginia Tech and is interested in the fields of cardiology, ophthalmology, hematology and neurology.
“In the beginning, I found it a little strange that the WVU School of Medicine does not just automatically hand you a white coat upon entering your first year,” Tellez said. “However, now that I am almost done with my second year, I appreciate why they do it this way, and I feel as if I have earned it.
The class of 2020 boasts seven legacy students, with parents who are also graduates of WVU’s program in medicine or completed a residency training program:
- Reed Andrews is the son of Judie Charlton, M.D. (Class of 1985)
- Katherine Bergman is the daughter of Gary Bergman, M.D. (Class of 1987)
- Julian Fazi is the son of Burt Fazi, M.D. (Class of 1982)
- Michael Gerbo is the son of Robert Gerbo, M.D. (Class of 1990)
- Calla Walters is the daughter of Torin Walters, M.D. (Class of 1990)
- David Zekan is the son of Steve Zekan, M.D. (Class of 1975)
- Philip Hurst is the son of Michael Hurst, M.D. (Class of 1993-residency training).
“This ceremony is an important milestone in the professional development of a physician,” said Norman Ferrari, M.D., vice dean for education and academic affairs and professor and chair in the WVU Department of Medical Education. “It is the first time they will publically recite the Oath of Hippocrates on their journey to becoming a physician and establishing a sacred trust with their patients to provide excellent care in a compassionate manner.”
The featured speaker was WVU School of Medicine alumna Lauren W. Morgan Swager, M.D., associate professor of behavioral medicine at WVU. She completed a psychiatry residency and a child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Dr. Swager is a member of the Class of 2003 and is a third generation graduate of the WVU School of Medicine. She is the fourth in her family to serve as president of the WVU School of Medicine Alumni Association.
WVU’s Gold Humanism Honor Society chapter president Mitchell Hoyson also gave remarks. He encouraged the students to spend time listening to their patients and providing compassionate care.
The Arnold P. Gold Foundation designed the White Coat Ceremony in 1993 to welcome entering medical students and help them to establish a psychological contract for the practice of medicine. The event emphasizes the importance of compassionate care for the patient as well as scientific proficiency. It has since been established at medical schools across the country.
WVU’s ceremony was named for John W. Traubert, M.D., former associate dean for student and curricular affairs at the WVU School of Medicine, who practiced family medicine in Wellsburg before joining the WVU faculty as founding chair of the Department of Family Practice, now the Department of Family Medicine. A reception follows the ceremony.
Photo captions: (1) A group shot of the Class of 2020 in their white coats following the WVU School of Medicine’s annual John W. Traubert White Coat Ceremony; (2) The WVU School of Medicine class of 2020 legacy students with their alumni parents at the medical school’s White Coat ceremony on Saturday, March 17 (left to right, student in back row and corresponding parent in front row): David Zekan, son of Steve Zekan, M.D. (Class of 1975); Philip Hurst, son of Michael Hurst, M.D. (1993-residency training); Reed Andrews, son of Judie Charlton, M.D. (Class of 1985); Calla Walters, daughter of Torin Walters, M.D. (Class of 1990); Julian Fazi, son of Burt Fazi, M.D. (Class of 1982); Michael Gerbo, son of Robert Gerbo, M.D. (Class of 1990); missing from the photograph is Katherine Bergman, daughter of Gary Bergman, M.D. (Class of 1987); (3) Class of 2020 medical student, Roberto Tellez, displays his new white coat with vice dean for medical education, Norman Ferrari, M.D.
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