School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine

Class of 2016 White Coat Ceremony welcomes 290 new students

As a child, Brittany Smith of Detroit would read her nurse momís medical textbooks.

As a child, Brittany Smith of Detroit would read her nurse momís medical textbooks.

New medical student Jeff Brakora originally wanted to be a teacher.

New medical student Jeff Brakora originally wanted to be a teacher.

Warren resident Remana Hasnath is the first in her family to attend medical school.

Warren resident Remana Hasnath is the first in her family to attend medical school.

From left, keynote speaker Margit Chadwell, M.D., and Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Career Development Lisa MacLean, M.D.

From left, keynote speaker Margit Chadwell, M.D., and Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Career Development Lisa MacLean, M.D.

Dr. Lisa MacLean outfits a student.

Dr. Lisa MacLean outfits a student.

What is just a three-button coat to some was a life-changing nod of approval today for 290 men and women embarking on a daunting journey.

Jeff Brakora, 23, of Lake Orion, is one of the 290.

“Today is symbolic because they’re putting a vote of confidence in you for the next four years,” said Brakora, a 2011 graduate of Michigan State University and the first in his family to enter medical school.

The traditional White Coat Ceremony for the Wayne State University School of Medicine welcoming the Class of 2016 was held Aug. 3 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center’s Orchestra Hall in Detroit.

The short white coat given to them indicates they are students during the time they attend the school.

Hundreds of friends and family, some traveling thousands of miles by plane for the event, packed the auditorium in support of the 130 women and 160 men who attended 83 different colleges and universities before arriving at WSU.

School of Medicine Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., welcomed the students and their families at the start of the ceremony, reminding them that medical school will not be easy, nor should it be.

“You have decided to undertake a formidable lifetime challenge, not just in terms of knowledge and skills, but also in relationships. People will come to place the ultimate trust in you – the health and lives of themselves and their families. That trust is sacred and you must always treat it so,” she said.

After several speeches, Silas Norman, M.D., associate dean of Admissions, Diversity and Inclusion, read each student’s name and undergraduate school and degree as they took the orchestra stage. Then, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Career Development Lisa MacLean, M.D., cloaked them in their own hip-length white coat, adorned with a simple arm patch reading “Wayne State University School of Medicine.”

For Detroit native Brittany Smith, 23, whose mother flew in from Miami, the day was the realization of a dream formed in childhood.

“I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I can remember, so it is kind of surreal to be here,” Smith said. “It means the start of my life, the start of everything I’ve been working for.”

As a child, Smith’s mother, a nurse, took her to the hospital to meet patients and learn about medicine. At a young age, Smith watched her mother go through nursing school, and would read her medical textbooks for fun.

Although she moved all over the country as a young girl to accommodate her stepfather’s career, she stayed focused on her studies throughout elementary, middle and high school, earning her undergraduate degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

“Everything was to get to this point,” she said.

For Remana Hasnath, the day meant all her hard work, including earning her undergraduate degree at WSU, was finally paying off.

“It feels so good to be here,” the 22-year-old Warren resident said.

Like Smith and Brakora, medical school is new territory for Hasnath’s family.

“I’ll be the first. They’re all very proud of me,” she said.

Vice Dean of Medical Education Maryjean Schenk, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., also professor of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences and a 1983 School of Medicine graduate, chose to speak only to the students in the audience – although she joked the parents could listen in.

“Your coat may feel too big for you right now,” she said. “After all, there is so much to learn. But by the end of your medical school studies, it will feel too small. It will bulge with the immense medical knowledge that you will have gained and the pride that you will feel in having successfully achieved the competencies required to receive the degree of medical doctor.”

Dean Parisi implored the students to define and strengthen their moral compass, especially as they provide care for the many indigent and uninsured residents of the community.

“Everyone has one, but yours must be beyond reproach. You must follow that moral compass no matter the consequences, especially given the trust that will be placed in you by patients. For it is in medicine that we see our brothers and sisters at their most human: scared, weak, vulnerable, seeking comfort and hope. They will need your honesty, your advocacy and your humanity,” she said.

Keynote speaker Margit Chadwell, M.D., F.A.A.F.P., a 1994 graduate of the School of Medicine, knows well the need for humanism in medicine. She earned the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award from the Class of 2012 and fellow School of Medicine faculty.

She is director of the Year III Family Medicine Clerkship and supports the clinical operations of the Robert R. Frank Student-Run Free Clinic. Dr. Chadwell gave the audience a thorough, sometimes humorous history of the white coat, including why it is white, and what its parts, from its three buttons to the small pocket placed over the heart, may symbolically mean.

“Our human connection is at the heart of every doctor-patient relationship,” Dr. Chadwell said, adding that medicine is nothing without the spirit of the human being treated. “Keep this in the pocket over your heart.”

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