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First-year medical students receive white coats

Class oath emphasizes health inequities, social justice

by Kristina SauerweinNovember 1, 2022

Video by Huy Mach

Despite the pandemic and challenges presented by health inequities and social injustices nationally and worldwide, the 124 students comprising the entering Class of 2022 at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis offered hope during their White Coat Ceremony on Friday, Oct. 28, at the Eric P. Newman Education Center.

“You give us all hope,” Lisa Moscoso, MD, PhD, told the first-year students, who chose medicine despite such crises and quandaries.

This year’s class comes from 31 states and seven countries, which, to date, represents the school’s most diverse medical class in terms of race and ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The ceremony marked a symbolic rite of passage in which students received their first white coats, signifying their entry into the medical profession. The students also recited, in unison, a class oath they wrote and tailored to their ethics, values and goals. One of the most important elements in this year’s oath was their commitment to health equity and social justice.

“You are aware of the challenges ahead, and you are eager to take them on,” said Moscoso, the medical school’s associate dean for student affairs and a professor of pediatrics.

Sarah Chiang, Michelle Cai and Stanley Chibueze participate in their final day of dissection in anatomy class during their first year of medical school in 2018.
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“This moment, the moment in which you don these white coats to symbolically begin your medical education, requires all of us – you and we, your faculty – to renew our commitment to the kind of learning that happens in our halls every minute of every day,” said David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor. “Honoring the way that details might mean the difference between a favorable outcome and a devastating one, recognizing our humanness and understanding that it is our failures, more even than our successes, that guide us toward our best selves and our highest capabilities of healing.”

The first few weeks of medical school have been “eye opening, with a glimpse of the complex ethical and structural components at play in the care of every patient,” said Joseph Krambs, PhD, president of the entering Class of 2022. “Ultimately, the experience has been inspiring. I am excited and honored to receive my white coat.”

First-year student Sabrina Madrigal was attracted to the medical school’s emphasis on social justice, health equity and compassionate patient care. “I am proud to be a part of a program that values all people and helps us learn how to advocate as doctors for all populations,” Madrigal said. “My white coat represents this and so much more.”

Eva Aagaard, MD, the vice chancellor for medical education, senior associate dean and the Carol B. and Jerome T. Loeb Professor of Medical Education, also felt pride as she prepared to lead the students in reciting the class oath: “I just want to say one word: Proud. I am so proud of all of you.”

Photos by Matt Miller. Click to enlarge.

Kristina covers pediatrics, surgery, medical education and student life. In 2020, she received a gold Robert G. Fenley Writing Award for general staff writing from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and in 2019, she received the silver award. Kristina is an author and former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Los Angeles Times, where she was part of a team of journalists that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for breaking news. Additionally, she covered the 2014 Ferguson unrest for TIME magazine and, for eight years, wrote a popular parenting column for BabyCenter.com.

Huy uses visual storytelling in his coverage of medical education, patient care, and research. He was part of a team of photographers at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography in 2015. He has a bachelor's degree in photojournalism from Western Kentucky University.