Class of 2020 Students Don White Coats at TouroCOM-Middletown Campus

Ceremony marks commitment to medicine

August 02, 2016
Tina Yang, TouroCOM-Middltown Class of 2020, receives her white coat.
Tina Yang, TouroCOM-Middltown Class of 2020, receives her white coat.

The White Coat ceremony, as it’s colloquially known, is an important feature of medical school. Families and friends of the students traveled from across the United States to witness their loved ones don the coats at the Paramount Theater in Middletown.

"The White Coat ceremony marks the student’s transition to the study of medical science," explained Dr. Kenneth Steier, TouroCOM Executive Dean and founding dean of the Middletown campus. "It is a rite of a passage as students embark on a career in medicine."

"Moving from student to student doctors is one of the most significant moves in serving humanity," said Dr. Jerry Cammarata, Chief Operating Officer and Dean of Student Affairs of TouroCOM-Middletown.

While there is no rule as to when the ceremony is held, TouroCOM-Middletown deliberately chose the beginning of the first year of medical school for the effect it has on students.

"We believe that once you're accepted to medical school and you sign the papers, you're committed to medicine," explained Dr. Cammarata. "Your mental posture and feelings change. Your attitude towards learning becomes: How does this affect my role as a patient care provider?"

The ceremony included a musical interlude by nearby Fei Tian College students and a keynote speech by Dr. Kristine Young, president of SUNY Orange Community College. Along with TouroCOM faculty, attendees on stage included Dr. Alan Kadish, president of Touro College and University System, Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano, and Middletown’s Director of Economic Development Maria Bruni.

Since TouroCOM-Middletown’s launch two years ago, the school has enjoyed a warm rapport with the local community, running health fairs and encouraging students to participate in community events. TouroCOM-Middletown’s relationship with its partner hospital Orange Regional Medical Center is particularly strong as well. "The hospital has become a model for medical school education," stated Dr. Steier, noting that the hospital just added eight new residency programs.

For the students, donning the white coat was both the end of one journey and the beginning of another.

Athena Riego, 24, a graduate of Rutgers University, said she was both excited and intimidated by the prospect of donning her coat.

"It’s been a long road to get here," she said. "It’s very humbling."

"Donning a white coat makes it all real," said Amy Roesch, whose husband Mike is part of the class of 2020. The two have a daughter, Savannah, and are expecting twin boys later this year.

This ceremony was the third White Coat ceremony for TouroCOM-Middletown. During his speech, Dr. Steier noted that of the 98 students in the class of 2018, 96.94 percent passed, exceeding the national average of first-time passes.

For parents who were doctors, the ceremony was especially poignant as they were able to put the white coats on their children.

"I'm very proud," said anesthesiologist Dr. Jianming Ren who traveled from Syracuse to put the white coat on his daughter Katherine.

Dr. Akmal Sarwar, a pulmonologist and assistant professor at Tufts University, drove in from Lexington, MA to put the coat on his daughter Fatima Akmal.

"It's an exciting moment," he said. "She doesn’t know I’ll be coating her."

The ceremony finished with the future doctors reciting the Osteopathic Oath.

As part of TouroCOM-Middletown’s commitment to the future of medicine, the final person to put on a white coat was Middletown kindergartener and future medical student Alexa O’Casio.

TouroCOM-Middletown looks forward to welcoming her into the class of 2038, with an official white coat. If she works hard and meets all the requirements, of course.