University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Class of 2015 Members Receive their White Coats

Benjamin Brown putting on white coat
First-year medical student Benjamin Brown puts on his white coat for the first time during the UVM College of Medicine's White Coat Ceremony at Ira Allen Chapel on Friday, February 17, 2012. (Photo by Raj Chawla, UVM Medical Photography)

For students in the University of Vermont College of Medicine’s Class of 2015, the symbolism of their first white doctor’s coat is powerful and meaningful.  “Along with fellow classmates and thousands of other medical students across the globe, I have now joined the ranks of those who commit to a career of caring, curing, and helping patients,” says Brooklyn, N.Y., native and first-year medical student David Harari. He and his 110 classmates participated in the 2012 White Coat Ceremony on February 17 in UVM's Ira Allen Chapel.

The event opened with a welcome from William Jeffries, Ph.D., senior associate dean for medical education, and remarks from UVM College of Medicine Dean Frederick C. Morin, III, M.D., Stephen Leffler, M.D., Fletcher Allen Health Care chief medical officer and professor of surgery, and G. Scott Waterman, M.D., associate dean for student affairs. Beth Kirkpatrick, M.D., associate professor of medicine, infectious disease specialist and director of the Vaccine Testing Center, delivered the keynote presentation, after which the presentation of coats took place. Students were cloaked by several College of Medicine faculty members, including Morin, Leffler, David Mooney, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and the 2011 Recipient of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award, and Tania Bertsch, M.D., associate dean for clinical education and associate professor of medicine.

Below are profiles of some of the members of the UVM College of Medicine’s Class of 2015:

·       Jericho, Vt., native Liz Abernathey’s experience as a Deaf individual and someone with a rare congenital disorder has guided her career path. An anthropology major at Dartmouth, she studied what she calls “the intersection of Deaf identity and Maori culture” in New Zealand, worked in health policy at Harvard, returned to school to complete premed prerequisites, and conducted clinical research on the long-term cardiotoxic effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The former leader of a New Hampshire Upper Valley regional mentoring program for teens says “Because of my own experiences, I am particularly passionate about working with adolescents with chronic health conditions or other long-term illnesses.”

·       A five-year-old during the outbreak of the Yugoslavian civil war in the early 1990s, Bosnian-born Dijana Poljak and her family were forced into concentration camps and lived as refugees in Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland. In 1998, they moved to the United States, requiring Poljak to learn English – her fourth language in 12 years. A Middlebury College graduate who currently resides in Colchester, Vt., Poljak says “I decided on a career in medicine, because I want to help those, who like me, have endured hardships.”

·       Tyler Van Backer grew up in the southern Vermont ski town of Wilmington, where he played a variety of sports and developed a love of animals. The Brattleboro High School and University of Vermont graduate originally considered veterinary medicine, but says he “realized that human medicine was the perfect combination of science, continual learning and ability to help my community that I wanted.”  Intent on attending the UVM College of Medicine, Van Backer engaged in several medical-oriented activities, including shadowing local physicians and serving as a volunteer EMT and director of operations for UVM Rescue. “My parents played a large role in my education; they spent their free time teaching me and classmates about science and the human body.”

A reception followed the ceremony in the Grand Maple Ballroom in UVM’s Davis Center.

Photographs and the ceremony video are available the week of February 20, 2012 for viewing.