University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Vermont Medicine Magazine

First Impressions: White Coat Ceremony Marks Medical Student Career Milestone

White Coat 2013
Alexandra Brown, Meghan Breen, Nicholas Bonenfant and Bryce Bludevich, members of the UVM College of Medicine Class of 2017, recite the Oath at White Coat Ceremony. (Photo by Raj Chawla)

Looks do matter, at least when it comes to physicians and white coats, says a recent survey of 200 patients at a New York City hospital and reported in a Family Practice News article. A total of 83 percent of the questionnaire respondents attributed their willingness to follow a physician’s advice to his/her professional appearance, and of the 51 percent who had an attire preference, 52 percent rated a white coat as most desirable. The 115 members of the University of Vermont College of Medicine’s Class of 2017 will now find out how true that is. On Friday, October 18 in UVM’s Ira Allen Chapel, these students hit the first big milestone of their medical school career – the White Coat Ceremony.

A rite of passage for first-year medical students, the White Coat Ceremony is an official welcome to the medical profession and is designed to instill the values of professionalism, humanism, and compassionate patient care and connects students to the legacy of thousands of alumni whose contributions to medical science have resulted in advances that have expanded the boundaries of knowledge, alleviated untold suffering, and saved the lives of countless individuals.

The Class of 2017, who began medical school on August 12, 2013, is currently taking the Human Structure and Function course in Level One of the UVM College of Medicine’s Vermont Integrated Curriculum. The course focuses on the composition of the human body and how it performs in the healthy state in an integrated study of microscopic and gross anatomy, physiology, basic imaging principles, embryology and clinical skills.

Below are profiles of several Class of 2017 students:

• Jericho, Vt. native Brian Till navigated a political path before choosing to pursue medicine in his home state. After undergraduate internships with Senator Patrick Leahy and the Burlington State's Attorney’s office, the Haverford College alumnus researched foreign policy at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C. and authored a book of interviews with former heads of state, as well as penned two global health articles for The Atlantic before a volunteer experience in the surgical intensive care unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center changed his career direction.

• Bryce Bludevich was born and raised in Colchester, Vt., where she excelled in sports, served in student government, pursued an interest in Asian cultures and traveled to China. The Smith College alumna continued to play soccer and study China, its culture, language and medicine, then, following graduation, moved in a medical direction, working in a UVM neuroscience laboratory and studying autism at Boston Children’s Hospital before securing a spot in the Class of 2017.

• Sarah Waterman Manning, M.P.A., an East Montpelier, Vt. native, and her husband and Jericho, Vt. native Will Manning are the first husband and wife to start medical school together at UVM. Married just three months, both are accomplished runners and have coached area high school cross country and track. Waterman Manning is also the creator of social media site #VTResponse, a post-Irene effort to organize volunteer efforts.

• Homer Chiang grew up in Fremont, Calif., loving to tinker with and repair small machines. The son of electrical engineers, he studied mechanical engineering as an undergraduate at Cornell University, eventually moving into the biomedical research realm in graduate school at Penn State and work in the Laboratory for Biomaterials and Drug Delivery at Boston Children’s Hospital. A project developing an artificial cornea at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and witnessing lifelong blind patients see for the first time with this cutting-edge technology redirected his focus and passion to medicine.

• As a youngster, Caleb Seufert, M.S.P.H., ran through the halls of the UVM College of Medicine while his mother juggled medical school and raising two boys. Inspired by her transformative career experience, he finished a post-baccalaureate premedical program after college, received cancer research training at the National Institutes of Health, completed a master’s degree in public health, and conducted research in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, before returning to his childhood haunt.

• Alissa Correll’s family’s glassblowing studio in rural Conway, Mass., exposed her to art, basic engineering and machine shop techniques, along with a community of farmers, craftspeople and small businesses. A magna cum laude Mount Holyoke College graduate and biology major who published a 2012 breastfeeding study and completed the required coursework to become a practicing birth doula, Correll is interested in rural medicine experiences with a focus on public and women’s health.

UVM’s White Coat Ceremony opened with welcomes from Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education William Jeffries, Ph.D., College of Medicine Dean Frederick C. Morin III, M.D., and Fletcher Allen CEO John Brumsted, M.D. Ursula McVeigh, M.D., UVM assistant professor of family medicine, director of the Fletcher Allen Palliative Care Service and the 2013 recipient of UVM’s Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award, delivered the guest speaker presentation at the ceremony.

A portion of the funding for the white coats was provided by the UVM Medical Alumni Association. The Arnold P. Gold Foundation provided the gift of Humanism in Medicine lapel pins to each medical student participating in the White Coat Ceremony. The Area Health Education Centers and UVM Office of Primary Care provided students with a keepsake copy of The Oath, which was read by medical students and physicians at the close of the ceremony.

Link to a video of the White Coat Ceremony. Photographs will be available on the Medical Photography website.

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.