“You Will Learn Your Way Around the Hospital”

TouroCOM Harlem Holds White Coat Ceremony for the Class of 2019

June 05, 2017

For the 135 TouroCOM-Harlem students who donned their white coats on May 22, the day was both a beginning and an end as they ceased being classroom students and became student-practitioners.

“It’s not about you anymore,” counseled TouroCOM-Harlem Interim Dean Dr. Martin Levine to the hundreds of family members and friends that gathered in the Alfred Lerner Hall in Columbia University at 10 a.m on a rainy Monday. “It’s about the patients now.”

The White Coat Ceremony, typically held after students finish their second-year of medical school, is a symbolic marker for the new role that students will have in the coming year. This summer, the students will leave the safe confines of the TouroCOM-Harlem campus and venture into the wider medical world of clinical rotations in the multiple TouroCOM-affiliated hospitals in the Tri-State area.  

“It’s one of the most exciting ceremonies we hold,” explained TouroCOM Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Nadege Dady, who noted that the first official White Coat Ceremony was held at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1993.  “We are happy to usher our students through this milestone in their career.” 

Touro Provost Patricia Salkin explained the significance:

“Regardless of your student status, you now represent the medical profession,” she said. “The white coat gives others faith and trust in you… Your patients will look to you to keep them safe. Safe from pain, safe from disease and safe to enjoy their lives.”

Provost Salkin also stressed TouroCOM’s mission in providing medical care to underserved communities.

“With your white coat think how you can help those in need who live in underserved communities,” she said

Rachel Brothers, a TouroCOM student who hails from Florida, said that putting on the white coat made the whole medical experience “feel real.”

"It's a culmination of her success and her struggles," stated Kunal Jiang who held flowers for his wife TouroCOM student Helen Jiang. "It's a proud day for her and her classmates."

TouroCOM student Marcus Konner found an unlikely metaphor for the ceremony. “It’s almost like a bar mitzvah,” he laughed. “It’s a big transition. We’re going from reading about medicine to seeing it in person.”

Danny Choy and Brittni Alexander were part of a close-knit study group during their first two years of medical school. "You bond because of how much stress you're under," said Alexander. "We're each other's support system," said Choy. Their study group will continue as they are both doing their rotations at the NJ Regional Educational Consortium hospitals.

"The faculty is what makes Touro great," added Alexander.

TouroCOM faculty and staff also used the ceremony as a platform to offer advice for the future doctors.

Though the future might be intimidating, TouroCOM Executive Dean Kenneth Steier expressed faith in his students.

“You will learn your way around the hospital,” said Dr. Steier. “Touro is always here to support you… You will do great. I know it and we all know it.”

Dean Diamond stressed the positive traits he witnessed in the students but highlighted one particular value: empathy.

“That is the hallmark of a physician,” he stated.

Keynote Speaker Dr. Michelle Claudette Reed, medical director of MS Family Medicine Health Care, P.C., offered her own advice.

“Compassion not arrogance,” she urged. “Whether you are treating a patient in Beverly Hills or an Indian reservation. Treat everyone the same.”

The last two speeches were delivered by students Laleh Simani and Aubrie Ford.

"We're all student-doctors today because of each other," said Simani

"It's a program that changes you," said Ford. "It makes you stronger."

Ford concluded her speech by thanking the unsung heroes of the event: the families and friends that supported the students. "Our gratitude is immense," she said. "We won't be able to repay you."