Columbia University Medical Center

With White Coat Ceremony, P&S Welcomes Class of 2018

Medical students from the Class of 2018 were welcomed into the profession of medicine on Monday during the 21st annual P&S white coat ceremony. For the first time, all of the new students were “cloaked” in their white coats—assisted by P&S faculty members—and recited the Hippocratic Oath.

“The ceremony epitomizes our commitment to science as well as humanism and professionalism of medicine,” said Lee Goldman, MD, Harold and Margaret Hatch Professor, Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine, and Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences. “To be physicians, we have to be on top of our science, but we also have to be caring, humanistic professionals.”

The white coat ceremony was created at P&S in 1993 by Arnold P. Gold, MD, professor of clinical neurology and clinical pediatrics, to promote within students a strong commitment to humanistic practice. His eponymous foundation now supports the ceremony at nearly every U.S. medical school.

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Arnold P. Gold speaks at the P&S white coat ceremony, a ritual he initiated in 1993. Photo: Amelia Panico.

Before the students donned their coats, Sheldon Feldman, MD, the Vivian L. Milstein Associate Professor of Surgery, recounted his own experiences with medicine and humanism, which moved him to establish the Fern Feldman Anolik-Gold Foundation Lecture in honor of a sister who died of breast cancer.

“Just as simple as a kind word, a touch on the shoulder, or a caring gesture can give so much in a situation where there may not be any therapeutic answers,” he said.

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Olajide Williams and Sheldon Feldman. Photo: Amelia Panico.

As the inaugural Fern Feldman Anolick-Gold Foundation Lecturer, Olajide Williams, MD, associate professor of neurology, encouraged the students to embrace their fears.

Great faculty at P&S—from founder Samuel Bard to Nobel laureate Dickinson Richards—had fears and experienced failures, “just like you and me,” Dr. Williams said. “But they embraced their fears.”

“I choose to believe in you. Never ever let anyone tell you that you cannot make a difference. You can. Do what needs to be done to get there, for the moment you give up doing it, it will never get done.”

The P&S Class of 2018, with Lee Goldman, MD, Arnold P. Gold, MD, Lisa Mellman, MD, and Robert E. Kelly, MD, president of New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Photo: Amelia Panico.

The P&S Class of 2018, with Lee Goldman, Arnold P. and Sandra Gold, Lisa Mellman, University Chaplain Jewelnel Davis, and Robert E. Kelly, president of New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Photo: Amelia Panico.

The P&S Class of 2018 includes 10 students enrolled in the Columbia-Bassett Program, a track begun in 2010 to allow students to combine traditional medical education in New York City with hospital-based outpatient and inpatient clinical education at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, N.Y. The first class of Columbia-Bassett students graduated this year.

The new medical school class also includes five students who graduated from the medical center’s pipeline programs, designed to increase the number of medical students from underrepresented minority or low-income communities. Thirty-eight students—24 percent of the class—are members of underrepresented minorities.

For the second year, four students entered the PhD-to-MD program, an accelerated three-year program for scientists who wish to become physician-scientists.

Members of the Class of 2018 represent 29 states, three foreign countries, and U.S. commonwealth. Nearly half are women. The students were chosen from among more than 7,500 applicants.

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