University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Vermont Medicine Magazine

UVM College of Medicine Class of 2016 Receives White Coats

(Photo by Raj Chawla, UVM Medical Photography)

An annual rite-of-passage ceremony that prepares medical students for their future as physicians took place a little earlier this year at the University of Vermont. Typically held six months into UVM medical students’ first year, the Class of 2016’s White Coat Ceremony took place in conjunction with “Family Day” on Saturday, October 20, 2012, at 2 p.m. in UVM's Ira Allen Chapel.

The ceremony marked a first for newly-appointed Associate Dean for Student Affairs Christa Zehle, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics and pediatrician at UVM/Fletcher Allen and Class of 1999 College of Medicine alumna, who began her new role at the College of Medicine just one month prior to the Class of 2016’s arrival on August 6, 2012. Zehle delivered the keynote presentation at the event. Additional presenters included William Jeffries, Ph.D., senior associate dean for medical education, Frederick C. Morin III, M.D., dean of the UVM College of Medicine, and John Brumsted, M.D., president and CEO of Fletcher Allen. Zehle, Morin, Brumsted, and Tania Bertsch, M.D., associate dean for clinical education and associate professor of medicine, assisted with cloaking students with their first white coats at the event.

To date, members of the Class of 2016 have studied Clinical Decision Making, Cell/Molecular Biology and are currently immersed in the 12-week-long Human Structure and Function course, which focuses on the composition of the human body and how it performs through an integrated study of microscopic and gross anatomy, physiology, basic imaging principles, embryology and clinical skills. The course integrates traditional educational methods with innovative computer-based lessons, small-group learning, and hands-on learning with Standardized Patients in the Clinical Simulation Laboratory.

The event was broadcast live via videostreaming beginning at 1:45 p.m. on October 20.  Photographs and a link to the ceremony video will be available the week of October 22 at

The University of Vermont Medical Alumni Association, Fletcher Allen Health Care, and the UVM College of Medicine Dean’s Office provided white coats for the ceremony, and the Arnold P. Gold Foundation provided Humanism in Medicine lapel pins for each student.

Background Information on the White Coat Ceremony:

  • Physicians dressed in black until the late 19th century, due to the association of black attire as formal. Physicians adopted the white coat as a symbol of purity at the beginning of the 20th century.
    (Source: Mark Hochberg, M.D., “The Doctor's White Coat--an Historical Perspective,” American Medical Association Journal of Ethic’s Virtual Mentor website, April 2007)
  • According to the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the White Coat Ceremony helps establish a psychological contract for the practice of medicine.
  • Initiated on August 20, 1993 at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, this annual ceremony or a similar rite now takes place at about 90 percent of schools of medicine and osteopathy in the United States.