White coats represent next step in the journey to become doctors
By Hope Hamashige
The Keck School of Medicine of USC held its white coat ceremony on August 5, an annual rite of passage that symbolizes the official entry to the medical profession for incoming medical students.
The 186 students making up the school’s Class of 2026 donned their white coats for the first time and listened as several faculty members shared thoughts on the challenges and rewards that these students will face in their careers as doctors.
In her first white coat ceremony as dean of the medical school, Dean Carolyn Meltzer, MD, told the crowd that one reason she chose to make the move to the Keck School was because it is a unique place to practice medicine and to learn to become a medical doctor.
“The Keck School of Medicine is a special place to train and work, albeit not always an easy one,” said Meltzer. “We care for people who suffer from some of the most complex medical conditions. We embrace a holistic approach to health and healing. We take seriously the environmental, societal and biological variables that all contribute to health and health injustice.”
Both Meltzer and Jo Marie Reilly, MD, MPH, professor of family medicine, reminded the students that practicing medicine is fulfilling and challenging, and it is a calling that that requires the individual practice with integrity and empathy.
“While the practice of medicine is forever changing in its technology and complexity, it is also a profession which fundamentally does not change. At its very core, we are called to serve humanity,” said Reilly, who delivered the keynote address at Friday’s ceremony. “May you embrace your role as healer gracefully and generously and may you answer the call of being a physician with great humility, dedication and sincerity.”
Friends and family applauded as the students were helped into their white coats for the first time by Ron Ben-Ari, MD, associate dean for curriculum and Tanisha Price-Johnson, PhD, associate dean for student affairs.
Vice Dean Donna Elliott, MD, EdD, pointed out that the ceremony, which is held at medical schools across the nation, celebrates the achievements of the young people who have chosen to “dedicate themselves to the service of others and to support and preserve our profession’s ideals.”
The ceremonies, which were first performed in 1993, are also intended to promote professionalism and humanism in medical students as they begin their medical education. The ceremony concluded with the students rising to recite the medical school’s version of the Hippocratic Oath, promising to practice medicine with honor and respect.