Students are told to look forward to “an amazing and incredible journey”
It is an annual initiation rite. Each year, the School of Medicine welcomes its class of incoming students during a White Coat Ceremony, marking their official entry into the study of medicine.
On August 1, Angela JacksonMED associate professor of medicine and associate dean for student affairs, welcomed the smiling group of family and friends gathered to witness the Class of 2026 receive their white coats, which she said represent “visible evidence that you are joining this profession, taking his first steps along this path that leads to a demanding but rewarding and meaningful career in medicine.”
Vincent SmithMED pediatrics professor, welcomed the students, gathered under a large white tent Monday on Talbot Green, to what he called “the noblest of professions.”
“It will bring you joy. It will bring you pain…. There will be ups and downs, but overall it’s going to be an amazing and incredible ride,” said Smith, this year’s guest speaker.
The heart of the ceremony is the presentation of the white coats. The faculty advisors that the medical students will have for the next four years will help each incoming student put on the white coat, embroidered with their name, which is a symbol of the medical profession. “When you put on that white coat for the first time today, the message is not that you are expected to become a professional, but that, as of today, you are already part of the profession,” he said. Karen Antman, dean of the MED and rector of the Medical Campus. The White Coat Ceremony is one of the rare moments during your medical education when the entire class comes together. Introducing the class to Antman, Kristen Goodell, associate dean of admissions, shared some statistics. The 159 members of the 174th incoming class were selected from a pool of more than 11,400 applicants. They come from 30 states and 30 countries and speak 26 languages.
“In welcoming you … our shared intention is to help you achieve your goals, so you can start making the world a better place,” Goodell said.
But even high achievers are challenged by medical school.
“You and your classmates will have challenges, that’s normal in medical school,” Antman warned. “It’s supposed to be difficult; if it was easy, anyone could do it,” he added, paraphrasing a quote from the movie your own league.
Justin Grant (MED’26), freshly clad, said he felt he had come a long way with much more ahead of him. A native of Atlanta and a graduate of Morehouse College, Grant participated in MED’s Early Medical School Selection Program, an early underwriting program developed in 1982 that seeks to diversify the physician workforce.
“I’m not very nervous or anxious right now, I feel great,” Grant said.
Brittny Garcia is from the Rio Grande Valley, “far south of Texas”. The University of Texas at Austin graduate chose MED because of his commitment to diversity and his focus on serving underserved populations. She hopes to take what she learns and come back to serve her community and others like her.
“I really felt like I was welcome, and this is where I was supposed to be,” she said. “They really made me feel like she had a place in medicine.”
Guest speaker Smith’s backstory proved that the path of life is rarely straight and predictable. Smith, who describes himself as a “short, chubby kid with thick glasses,” said he grew up in Texas, bookish, black and gay. One teacher told him that black children were never worth anything, and another predicted that he would be dead or in jail by 21.
But Smith had his champions, a supportive mother and “help from people who had nothing to gain by helping me.”
He is a graduate of Texas A&M University, Stanford University School of Medicine, and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. She trained in pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center (BMC), BU’s main teaching hospital, in the Boston Combined Pediatrics Residency Program. Now, she serves as BMC’s Division Chief of Neonatal Medicine.
“I wish I could tell you that my path was well planned and that I thought it all through and everything went according to plan, but that’s not true,” Smith told the assembled audience.
Her grandmother, who lived to be 104, told her that age brings understanding and, with that in mind, gave her advice she said she would have given to her younger self: hang in there, life gets better; inner beauty outshines outer appearance; and make the best decision you can with the information you have.
“Be generous with your time, love and resources,” Smith told the students. “What you get in return is immeasurable.”
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