Pictured: First-year student Christian Jakobsen is coated by his mother and father Glenn and Kwan Jakobsen, who are both graduates of the NYITCOM-Long Island 1993 Class.
As U.S. clinicians battled the COVID-19 delta variant, the College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) ushered in hundreds of medical students who will one day join these heroes on the frontlines.
During ceremonies in Long Island, N.Y., and Jonesboro, Ark., members of NYITCOM’s Class of 2025 received their first white coats. Widely viewed as the official start of medical school, the white coat has served as a symbol of cleanliness, trust, and healing since the late 1800s. Today, it is referred to as “the cloak of compassion,” reminding physicians of the empathy and service that they pledge to their patients.
In receiving their white coats, NYITCOM’s newest cohort prepared to fill the shoes of the Class of 2021, whose graduates earned impressive residencies at institutions such as The Mayo Clinic, The Cleveland Clinic, and Tufts Medical Center, among many others.
Here’s how NYITCOM’s incoming class began its medical school journey.
Held in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the NYITCOM-Long Island White Coat Ceremony took place August 10 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, N.Y. Here, more than 300 medical students were greeted by NYITCOM Dean Nicole Wadsworth, D.O., and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jerry Balentine, D.O., who poignantly said, “In the end, the only thing that really matters is your relationship with the patient and how you take care of them.”
This call for compassion was also echoed by keynote speaker Stanley Bergman, chairman of the board and chief executive officer for the Fortune 500 company Henry Schein, Inc., the world’s largest provider of healthcare products and services to office-based dental and medical practitioners. Prior to the ceremony, NYITCOM gifted Bergman with an honorary white coat, which he proudly wore throughout his address.
“While I’ve never worn a white coat myself, I do understand the lifelong commitment that this white coat represents: a commitment to making our world a better place through the compassionate and empathetic treatment of patients, to always strive towards excellence, and to continue educating yourself on the latest advances in medicine so that you can stay at the forefront of your profession,” said Bergman in a pre-recorded address.
He also advised students of his 10 most important life lessons, which concluded with “doing well by doing good,” as exemplified by NYITCOM alumnus Taylor Haas (D.O., M.B.A. ’19). As Bergman recounted, Haas played a pivotal role in the opening of the medical school’s Community Free Clinic, which provides healthcare services to medically underserved populations in Central Islip, N.Y. When the clinic first opened and needed medical equipment, Haas, a former Henry Schein intern, contacted the healthcare solutions giant, which generously stepped in and donated supplies. Today, Henry Schein, Inc. continues to support NYITCOM’s major initiatives and through service on the College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Advisory Board. For 2022, Bergman and his team are also working alongside Wadsworth to launch NYITCOM coursework on the business of medicine.
Stanley Bergman, chairman of the board and chief executive officer for the Fortune 500 company Henry Schein, Inc., gave the keynote address.
Before they received their white coats, students were also congratulated by medical school alumnus and Vice-chair of the New York Tech Board of Trustees Daniel Ferrara (D.O. ’86) and President Hank Foley, Ph.D. Once all the students were coated, the future physicians pledged the oath of commitment, which was read by Sheldon Yao, D.O., professor and chair of osteopathic manipulative medicine. Twelve incoming medical students have family members who are NYITCOM alumni, including Christian Jakobsen from Oyster Bay, N.Y., who was coated by his mother and father Glenn and Kwan Jakobsen, both graduates of the Class of 1993.
NYITCOM-Arkansas’s newest student doctors concluded their first week of medical school with a virtual ceremony on August 6. In a typical year, NYITCOM-Arkansas, located on the campus of Arkansas State University, holds an in-person ceremony following orientation week. However, due to the current surge in COVID-19 cases, the Arkansas location opted for a virtual celebration this year.
The 124 members of the Class of 2025 joined a Zoom video conference, which was also streamed on Facebook Live. Student doctors received their white coats prior to the day’s event, but as their names were called, they were coated by loved ones such as a family member, spouse, or friend.
First-year student Mary Mills Lochala, who played collegiate softball at Harding University before joining the NYITCOM-Arkansas Class of 2025, was among the members who celebrated the event with her family.
“Last Friday was a very special day because I got to be coated by my dad, who is a D.O.,” Mills Lochala said. “Growing up, he and I shared a love of sports, and since that phase of my life has passed, I now get to share medicine with him.”
First-year student Robin Reddix received her white coat at NYITCOM-Arkansas’ virtual ceremony on August 6.
“We very much wish that this ceremony could have occurred in person, but as leaders and future leaders in healthcare, we must set the example for others, and the current state of the pandemic just didn’t allow us to come together,” said Shane Speights, D.O., site dean of NYITCOM-Arkansas. “However, it doesn’t make this occasion any more significant, nor does it make the recognition of your success or your accomplishments to this point any less important. We’re very proud of you and very proud for you.”
According to U.S. News & World Report, the 2020 average acceptance rate for American medical schools was just 6.5 percent, meaning that less than seven out of every 100 applicants receive an opportunity to study medicine. With this in mind, Wadsworth challenged the Class of 2025 to self-reflect as they begin a journey that is only afforded to the most qualified.
“I want you to think about what this means for you, for your role. The honor, the privilege, and the responsibilities that the white coat embodies; you certainly are on the precipice of an amazing adventure,” she said.
Medical students also heard a keynote address from Barbara Ross-Lee, D.O., founding dean of NYITCOM-Arkansas, and Amanda Deel, D.O., associate dean of academic affairs.
By Casey Pearce