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Medical students celebrate in-person White Coat Ceremony

Entering Class of 2021 experiences rite of passage despite pandemic

by Elizabethe Holland DurandoNovember 2, 2021

Matt Miller

“You,” said Lisa Moscoso, MD, PhD, “are a sight for sore eyes.”

Even with a mask on, it was evident that Moscoso, associate dean for student affairs and a professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, wore a huge smile.

She joyfully welcomed 124 future physicians, the school’s entering class of 2021, to their White Coat Ceremony on Friday, Oct. 29, at the Eric P. Newman Education Center on the Medical Campus. There, first-year medical students from all over country and all over the world received their first white coats, marking the beginning of their journeys to become doctors.

Last year’s incoming class started their medical educations in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and all of its uncertainties. Instead of a large gathering, last year’s ceremony took place in several spaces instead of one, allowing for safe distances; vaccines had not yet been approved. Faculty presented white coats to small groups of mask-wearing students assigned to myriad classrooms. The student’s families and other loved ones watched via livestreams and Zoom.

This year’s class had the benefit of the vaccine and fine-tuned guidelines to defend against the virus, so they were allowed to gather in a large auditorium, and each student was allowed to bring family, though fewer loved ones than in normal years. Everyone in attendance wore masks.

Moscoso noted to the gathering that because of the pandemic and the many standstills it had created, the White Coat Ceremony might be the biggest event any of them had attended since their high school graduations.

White Coat Stories

In the video series below, first-year medical students Jessica Goldberg, Gabriel Trevino Verastegui, Mackenzie Cappelle and Adam Snowden share what inspired them to become doctors.

The group listened to a thoughtful talk from keynote speaker Jennifer Gould, MD, associate professor of radiology, about the meaning of their white coats — not just to them but to future patients and others who will look to them for answers and support. “Recognize it for the meaning it has for others and the meaning it will have for you,” she told them.

Eva Aagaard, vice chancellor for medical education, the Carol B. and Jerome T. Loeb Professor of Medical Education, and senior associate dean for education, led the class in the student oath the future physicians had crafted together. “I am so proud, so privileged, to have the opportunity to lead you in this oath,” Aagaard said.

Visit the White Coat Ceremony website to read their oath and view further photos and videos from and preceding the event.

Matt Miller
Medical students in the entering class of 2021 at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis receive their white coats Oct. 29 during a ceremony on the Medical Campus.
Matt Miller
First-year medical student Mackenzie Cappelle gives the thumbs-up after receiving her white coat Oct. 29 at the 2021 White Coat Ceremony at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Matt Miller
The 2021 entering class of medical students at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis read their oath together at the White Coat Ceremony on Oct. 29 at the Eric P. Newman Education Center.

Elizabethe works with the science-writing and media relations teams within Medicine Marketing & Communications. She writes occasionally, including stories for Outlook magazine and the Record that took her to Bangladesh to cover faculty efforts to help Rohingya refugees. She is a former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Las Vegas Sun and the Northwest Florida Daily News, and she has taught journalism and/or writing courses at The Ohio State University, Lindenwood University and Webster University. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree in journalism from Ohio State.

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.