At the College of Osteopathic Medicine’s (NYITCOM) annual White Coat Ceremonies on Long Island, N.Y., and in Jonesboro, Ark., approximately 400 future physicians received white coats, symbolizing their entry into the medical profession.
Seen as a rite of passage and the official start of medical school, the white coat has embodied cleanliness, trust, and healing since the late 1800s. Before then, many physicians wore black, the color also worn by clergy, as seeking medical advice was often seen as a precursor to death. But around the turn of the 20th century, medicine came to be viewed as a scientific profession. As a result, the “pureness” of science was reflected in the white coats worn by physicians, many of whom sought to distinguish themselves from those who did not practice evidence-based medicine. Today, the white coat serves as a reminder for physicians to embody the empathy and service they have pledged to their patients.
At this year’s NYITCOM White Coat Ceremonies, the incoming class prepared to fill the shoes of the Class of 2023, whose members achieved an impressive 100 percent match rate and earned residencies at esteemed institutions such as The Cleveland Clinic, Duke University, and Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, among many others.
Here’s how NYITCOM’s Class of 2027 kicked off its medical school journey.
NYITCOM-Arkansas held its White Coat Ceremony on August 11 at the Arkansas State University Fowler Center. Here, NYITCOM-Arkansas Site Dean Shane Speights, D.O., New York Tech Provost and Executive Vice President Jerry Balentine, D.O., and NYITCOM Dean Nicole Wadsworth, D.O., welcomed students who recently arrived in Jonesboro to begin their medical education.
“The White Coat Ceremony itself is intended to establish a point in time in which the student crosses over into a new role as a student doctor,” said Speights. “It is a very special time when we commemorate the beginning of the students’ medical school journey and celebrate our incoming class alongside their family and friends.”
Site Dean Shane Speights with the newly coated Class of 2027
The Class of 2027 is the eighth class to attend NYITCOM-Arkansas, established in 2016 to train clinicians to help alleviate the significant physician shortage facing Arkansas and the Greater Mississippi Delta region. This year, 63 percent of NYITCOM-Arkansas’ Class of 2023 graduates were placed into residency programs that will keep them in Arkansas, a targeted Delta state, or a state contiguous to Arkansas.
Many of the school’s newly coated students will now continue this mission, including native Arkansan Kayne Wilson. Wilson grew up just north of Jonesboro, in Paragould, Ark., and completed his undergraduate degree at Arkansas State University before embarking on his medical education at NYITCOM.
“Today marks the first step to becoming a D.O., and it’s really exciting for our entire class because we’ve all worked so hard to get here,” Wilson said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity, and I’m ready to get started.”
NYITCOM-Arkansas also recognized the first two recipients of the Dr. Michael and Julie Isaacson Scholarship, Katie Head of Paragould, Ark., and Andrew Sullivan of Jonesboro, Ark. The scholarship covers a portion of the tuition for students from select Arkansas Delta counties who have expressed an interest in remaining in the area to practice medicine once they complete their training.
NYITCOM-Long Island’s White Coat Ceremony took place on August 16 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, N.Y. Following the national anthem, sung by the medical school’s a capella group, The Note-o-chords, congratulatory remarks were offered by Dean Wadsworth, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Daniel Ferrara (D.O. ’86), and New York Tech President Hank Foley, Ph.D.
Alumnus John Rimmer (D.O. ’05), a dual board-certified emergency physician and internist, delivered a poignant keynote address. Rimmer, who currently serves as system chief medical officer at CarePoint Health System, was a first-year NYITCOM student at the time of the September 11 attacks. In recalling the events of that day, he reminded students to lean on one another in times of need, much like he and his classmates did in 2001.
“For those who remember the timeline of that day, I was late to class, which began at 8 am. When I arrived in the lecture hall, I met a classmate who had tears in his eyes, and I asked if the class knew what was happening. We looked at each other like we knew the world had just changed. [From campus], you could actually smell the smoke. I remember wondering if I could somehow get to New York City to help...That moment removed any self-doubt that I had about my career choice or investment I had made in myself,” said Rimmer, who also did the honors of coating the first group of medical students.
NYITCOM student Frank DiCaro and Madeline Pugliesi
Several students were coated by their family members who also attended NYITCOM, including Frank DiCaro of Port Washington, N.Y., who was coated by his mother, pediatrician Madeline Pugliese (D.O. ’92). In addition to following in his mother’s footsteps, DiCaro is carrying on a tradition set by three of his four siblings, Daniela DiCaro (D.O. ’20), Anthony DiCaro (D.O. ’21), and NYITCOM Class of 2026 student Lisa DiCaro.
“Someone just said to me the other day, ‘Do you know how completely unusual it is to have four or five kids follow in your footsteps?’” said Pugliese, whose other child also chose to pursue a career in healthcare. “I love medicine, this is what I’m so happy and proud to do, and I’m over the moon that they also chose this path.”
By Casey Pearce