Campbell coats over 300 future physicians

For the Record
Posted 9/28/21

Over 300 future osteopathic physicians received white coats at the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine’s back-to-back ceremonies in Hobson Performing Arts Center Sept. 17.

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Campbell coats over 300 future physicians

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Over 300 future osteopathic physicians received white coats at the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine’s back-to-back ceremonies in Hobson Performing Arts Center Sept. 17.

The Class of 2024’s ceremony was delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and their ceremony followed the Class of 2025’s.   

The ceremony featured remarks from national representatives of the profession, an alumna, respective class representatives, the Dean of the School of Osteopathic Medicine and university administrators.

Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, the first African American woman to serve as dean of any U.S. medical school and current president elect of the American Osteopathic Foundation, delivered greetings from the profession to both classes virtually thanks to the Arnold P. Gold Foundation and the American Association of Schools of Osteopathic Medicine.

“The white coat is worn as a symbol of your journey in medicine. It represents your personal aspirations, your commitment to providing health services, your understanding of the importance of humanism in the care of other human beings, and your professional status in the hierarchy of medicine…”

“Look around you at your new colleagues in this class of 2025; they will also become your teachers. You can learn from them to value and respect differences. Look closely the diversity of perspectives in your class … [it] creates a learning laboratory. Your class is a valuable resource as you prepare yourselves to effectively engage the diversity of patients in your futures.”

The alumna

Dr. Elizabeth Willis, from the Class of 2017, returned to her alma mater to deliver the keynote address to both classes. Pursuing a career in pediatric anesthesiology, Willis completed a pediatric residency, serving as chief resident 2020-2021, at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and is now a first year anesthesiology resident.

In the address, she shared a metaphor the school’s namesake, Dr. Jerry M. Wallace, shared with her class eight years ago:

“Has anyone ever heard of a turtle on a fence post? Wallace explained that, ‘if you’re riding down the street and you see a turtle on top of a fence post, you know that turtle didn’t get there on its own. It had to have been helped to the top of the post.’

“I’m by no means undermining the significant amount of hard work that you have already invested in your career, but there are others who have played an important role in your success,” said Willis. “Take a moment now to think about your support people: Parents, significant others, kids, siblings, professors, mentors – these are your people. And I understand now where Dr. Wallace was going. We are all turtles on fence posts.

“This is your community and you want to keep them on your team … In this busy career, make sure that you make time for yourself and them. You are climbing that fence post, and they are going to give you an extra boost, and you need them.

“Congratulations, our Class of 2025! Go ahead and mark this day and celebration as a notch in your fence post; know that your people and your community celebrating with you today are always supporting you.”

Class representatives

“It was worth waiting,” said Student Government Association President Meaghan Nazareth, Class of 2024.  “For many of us, it was both about celebrating receiving the white coat and about celebrating the people who helped to support us getting to med school and through the challenges of the past year. It was great for all of our classmates to be able to enjoy this moment together with our families and loved ones, and I think we were really able to appreciate the moment because of the wait to have the ceremony.” 

Amritha Jacob shared these words and a prayer with her 2025 classmates:

“The white coat we are getting today is the invitation to step into a brighter future — one that is equipped with a new identity primed for a better legacy. So today, as each of us are adorned by our predecessors in this journey with our white coats, I pray that you receive this new identity with the promise that you’re not alone in this journey. Each of you were chosen and appointed for such a time, and therefore, the Lord who began a good work in you will complete it.”

The dean

Dr. Brian Kessler, dean of the osteopathic medical school, says the annual ceremony is a time of encouragement and reaffirmation not only for the student doctors, but also the school.

“This ceremony signifies a new chapter toward completing your goal and further developing the characteristics of professionalism, caring, and commitment to service that distinguish graduates of Campbell.

“The White Coat Ceremony is a time for medical students to hear words of wisdom and encouragement. The ceremony provides an opportunity to reflect on what it means to become a physician and a time for students to reaffirm their commitment to becoming physicians. It is also an opportunity for us — as a medical school — to reaffirm its commitment to providing the education and clinical training necessary to help each student achieve their professional goals.”

The provost

Dr. Mark Hammond, provost of Campbell University, reminded students of the core elements of education and how the pandemic has highlighted a new essential element to success — resilience.

“[T]he three R’s — reading, riting, and rithmetic; naturally these core areas and related competencies carry on to college and graduate or professional programs. But lately, you’ve been learning about a very important ‘fourth R’ .... Whether you were in college or a graduate program last year, in order to be successful, you had to be resilient — an attribute that has made possible your participation as a Campbell student doctor at this white coat event today. So congratulations on being prepared for the unknown, for being successful, and for choosing Campbell as the place to learn how to have a successful medical career AND to learn how to have a successful and meaningful life.” 

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