'A hopeful beacon for health care and change'

College of Medicine welcomes 180 first-year medical students at annual White Coat Ceremony

The 180 members of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine’s Class of 2027 listened intently Friday morning (July 28) as Soma Sengupta, MD, PhD, delivered the keynote remarks of the college’s 28th Annual White Coat Ceremony.

Sengupta, this year’s Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award faculty recipient, told the students to “think of Hippocrates, Maimonides and the ancient healers from all over the world, and as you trace their footsteps and walk in their shadows, turn on your own light, let it burn bright, a new beacon, a hopeful beacon for health care and change.”

“Medicine is a team sport and should not be for the honor and glory of the few, and above all, be transparent, like a mirror, and try to reflect all that is good,” she added.

Sengupta, an associate professor in the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine and the Harold C. Schott Endowed Brain Tumor Molecular Therapeutics Chair in the Department of Neurosurgery, is a neuro-oncologist and active clinician-scientist. She was selected by the Class of 2023 as someone the students believe exemplifies the qualities of a caring and compassionate mentor whose personal characteristics are desirable qualities necessary to the practice of patient-centered medicine.

Sengupta asked the students to remember the word “integrity” and then used each letter of the word to highlight a characteristic they should maintain throughout their medical education and career as a physician.

“I … independent thinking, it is right to question, to understand and analyze. N … have the natural affinity for caring for your patients. T … targeting those patients and colleagues that need your help most, and offer your generous support. E … deploy effective team-building skills with your clinical team. G … generosity of spirit towards your patients, to your colleagues and others goes a long way. R … you are rewarded by every victory your patient makes, and take each one as a feather in your cap. I … innovative ways of thinking about medical care, did someone not say, ‘Invention is the mother of necessity?’ T … teaching aspiring health care professionals, scientists, patient families is so important, and can be a lifeline for many. Y … you are the next generation of physicians, and you will make us all proud!

woman speaking at lectern

Soma Sengupta, MD, PhD, speaking to the College of Medicine Class of 2027 during their White Coat Ceremony.

The students and their family and friends joining them for the ceremony at Fifth Third Arena were welcomed by UC President Neville Pinto, PhD, who noted that some members of the class were already Bearcats after having completed their undergraduate degrees at UC (31 students in the Class of 2027 are continuing their education at UC). He told the students that they represented “our next.”

“Next Lives Here,” Pinto said “is about you, our students. It expresses our belief and confidence that you, every single one of you, with your UC education are ready to meet the challenges ahead as engaged and caring citizens and future physicians.”

Also speaking during the event was Andrew T. Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean of the College of Medicine.

“You will soon individually walk to the stage and slip on your white coat, a symbolic transformation for each of you into the medical profession,” Filak said. “This week you have gone through orientation, learning what will be expected of you and how best to succeed as a medical student. You have been introduced to your classmates and many of the faculty and staff. These are the first steps in your journey to fulfill one of your greatest ambitions in life … becoming a physician.”

Filak told the students they were selected, in part, because of their stellar academic record in addition to a demonstrated ability to be insightful, good communicators and their capacity to show empathy.

“Knowledge alone does not make a good physician,” he added, urging the students to follow the college’s faculty as mentors and role models. “They exemplify what it is to be a good physician, to be a life-long learner, to be compassionate, empathetic and caring. Watch them. Listen to them. They will teach you an extraordinary amount in the classroom and at the bedside, but most importantly, they will show you how to be a good physician.”

Dr. Bi Awosika, MD Assistant Dean for Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion helped student put on their white coat during the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine White Coat ceremonies class of 2027 Friday July 28 2023 at Fifth Third Arena. Photo by Joseph Fuqua II

First-year medical student Austen Hamilton receives his white coat from Bi Awosika, MD, associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, at the July 28 White Coat Ceremony.

The first-year medical students spent last week in orientation and ended the week at the White Coat Ceremony. Philip Diller, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for educational affairs, and Bo Awosika, MD, associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine and assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, slid the white coats on the happy students amid cheers and applause as Dawn Bragg, PhD, associate dean for student affairs, read each name.

The College of Medicine began holding a White Coat Ceremony in 1996, just three years after the late Arnold Gold, MD, a pediatric neurologist, held the first ceremony at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. Gold was a speaker at the College of Medicine’s first ceremony in Kresge Auditorium, returning to Cincinnati where he had been a resident at Cincinnati Children’s. Gold and his wife, Sandra, established the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 1988 to enhance humanism in medicine. It was thought that celebrating the donning of a medical student’s first white coat and the recitation of an Oath of Professionalism would establish the importance of compassionate care.

The Class of 2027 wrote their own unique “Oath of Professionalism” during Orientation Week.

“We will act with integrity, practice accountability and respect patient autonomy. We will value the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship and foster reciprocal trust through compassion and transparency,” the class, led by first-year student Manav Mathur, recited in part at the end of the ceremony. “We will strive toward self-improvement while respecting our minds, bodies and limits. We will uphold the highest standard of professionalism by practicing humility and addressing mistakes ad biases.”

“Bound by this oath, we recognize the responsibility bestowed upon us. We pledge to care for our community, patients, colleagues and ourselves by upholding these ideals through strength in unity,” the students concluded in their oath.

people holding white coats

Several first-year medical students join Andrew T. Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean, prior to the July 28 White Coat Ceremony.


Featured photo at top: members of the UC College of Medicine Class of 2027 recite their Class Oath of Professionalism during their White Coat Ceremony. All photos by Joseph Fuqua

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