The 132 first-year students of the Stony Brook University School of Medicine Class of 2019 — the largest ever in the school’s history — officially began their training with the school’s annual White Coat Ceremony.
At the Aug. 23 event, the incoming medical students received their first physician-in-training white coats and took the Hippocratic oath for the first time. The Class of 2019 is a talented and diverse group coming from New York State, eight other states, and around the world.
Only 7.4 percent of the total 5,255 applicants were accepted. A larger portion of students in this class, compared to previous incoming classes, already have advanced degrees. A total of 23 hold advanced degrees, including one Ph.D., one Doctor of Pharmacy, 18 masters’ and three Masters in Public Health.
“Today is a celebratory and symbolic day for all of you. As you receive your first white coats, enjoy the honor and responsibility that comes with wearing the white coat,” said Kenneth Kaushansky, senior vice president of Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine. “Medicine is a field unmatched in the range of emotions you will experience. You will be struck by many firsts — your first newborn delivery, your first sharing of a diagnosis of cancer, the first patient you will see cured, and your first patient death. And never forget that your journey will require lifelong learning, as you take part in many advances in the art and the science of medicine in the years to come.”
Among the many accomplished members of the Class of 2019 include Tony Wan, the son of Chinese immigrants, who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps right after high school. He served two tours in Iraq — where his duties included providing first aid to fellow soldiers.
He then left the military and pursued college at CUNY-York College, where he graduated as class valedictorian in 2012. After seeing too many of his fellow Marines with life-changing injuries, he’s motivated toward becoming a neurologist specializing in traumatic brain injuries. Wan said he particularly wants to work to improve the care of veterans.
Persis Puello, a mother of two and the oldest incoming student, at 34 years of age, is also part of the 2019 class. She earned advanced degrees from Columbia University, a Master of Science in Applied Physiology and Nutrition; and from Stony Brook, a Master of Science in Physiology and Biophysics. Her career as an athletic trainer and nutritionist inspired her to work toward becoming an orthopedic surgeon and, eventually, a team doctor.
She credited support from her husband and her sister for enabling her to raise her two young children, ages 3 and 8, while pursing the challenge of a career in medicine.
Nicholas Tsouris, who grew up in Stony Brook and is a former professional lacrosse player, was part of a team of fellow students hailed by Popular Mechanics magazine as “Backyard Geniuses” for their invention of a spoke-less bicycle. After graduating from Yale, he worked on Wall Street while playing major league lacrosse, later deciding to pursue medicine.
The school has steadily increased its incoming class size over the past several years in order to address the significant shortage of physicians nationally, as cited by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
New to the ceremony this year was the presentation of a stethoscope to each student to accompany with their white coats. The school’s alumni association donated the 132 stethoscopes for the event.