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White Coat Ceremony

136 students launch journey into Medicine at traditional White Coat Ceremony

At the Renaissance School of Medicine’s (RSOM) White Coat Ceremony, 136 incoming students donned their physician “white coats” and took the Hippocratic Oath for the first time. Held at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center, the annual ceremony brings students, their families, and faculty together as the academic year begins and members of the Class of 2027 embark on their journeys toward becoming physicians. The RSOM has held the White Coat Ceremony since 1998.

The incoming students are a select group, and according to RSOM administrators is one of the most diverse classes in the school’s history. Only 8.5 percent of all applicants to the RSOM for 2023-24 were accepted into the program. Approximately 20 percent of class consists individuals from historically marginalized communities, and 54 percent of the class are women.

Collectively the students received their undergraduate degrees from 66 different colleges and universities from around the country. Stony Brook University (20) and Cornell University (17) were the undergraduate schools with the most representation. The class has a combined median undergraduate GPA of 3.89. While many of the new students are from different areas of the country, 77 percent hail from New York State.

“To the Class of 2027, you are entering medicine at an exhilarating time,” said Peter Igarashi, MD, Dean of the RSOM, who presided over his first White Coat Ceremony. “Scientific discoveries in medicine are occurring at a breathtaking and awe-inspiring rate. Diseases that were rapidly fatal when I was a medical student, such as multiple myeloma and leukemia, are now routinely treated. Advances in human genetics have enabled truly personalized medicine, and the development of an effective Covid-19 vaccine less than one year after the onset of the pandemic saved almost 20 million lives and underscored the essential role that science plays in public health.”

All of the students have a story as to how and why they have chosen Medicine as a profession.

For New York City native Adam Bruzzese, an NYU graduate, his family’s difficulties and challenges they had within the healthcare system was a big trigger to increasing his passion for medicine. Adam’s 11-year-old sister had mysteriously become paralyzed, and he played an integral part in providing her healthcare as a teenager and college student. He witnessed disparities of care as she moved through the health system, plus the myriad  of tests and physician opinions along the way. It was eventually determined her paralysis was caused by Lyme Disease.

Manteca, California native Jasmine Stansil, a standout student in high school and at the University of California, San Diego, was always fascinated by the human body as a kid. She also became captivated by how physicians can have an incredible impact on human life when she watched Untold Stories of the ER. But she was most inspired to pursue Medicine because of her grandmother, who endured multiple strokes.

“Watching doctors provide her care made me want to do the same for others,” says Stansil. “I am hoping to become an academic physician who will provide clinical care, teach and conduct research.”

Jerome Belford, one of the 20 class members who attended Stony Brook University as an undergraduate, described his interest in medicine as coming from a “passion that stems from a desire to promote physical and emotional health and wellness.”

From Long Island, Belford is a volunteer EMT who decided to attend the RSOM because of its broad research and clinical opportunities and standout education that provides experiential and hands-on medical training. He hopes to eventually provide patients who have historically not had access to the best medical resources improved care, either as an emergency physician or though primary care as an internist.

White coat ceremonies are an initiation rite and are symbolic to Medicine as a profession that combines professionalism with scientific excellence and compassionate care. In an era of telemedicine, aging populations, new knowledge about infections and diseases, and emerging technologies, Medicine remains a dynamic and changing profession that continues to impact the health and well-being of society.

All photos by Arthur Fredericks

136 incoming students to the Renaissance School of Medicine took their Hippocratic Oath for the first time. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

The Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University welcomed its incoming 2021 class at the annual White Coat Ceremony on Aug. 15.  A total of 136 students for the first time donned their white coats and took the Hippocratic Oath at a ceremony in the Staller Center. They begin their medical training during a year that marks the 50th anniversary of the school.

First-year student Jessica Kwong. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Dr. William Wertheim, interim dean, cited the students as a unique and talented incoming class entering medicine at a challenging and changing time in the profession. He emphasized professionalism and compassion for patients as two of the leading areas they will need to develop and build on in their medical school training years.

A large portion of the class hails from New York State (69%), yet many students are from all over including 13 other U.S. states and five countries. They are among a select group, as the school received more than 5,800 applications for a position in the class.

“I feel like entering the medical field during these pandemic times will give my class a humbler perspective on medicine,” said student Jessica Kwong, who had majored in Psychology and Linguistics at Emory University. “I have no idea what I want to specialize in, but during the pandemic I worked with the elderly populations and organized a tele-volunteer initiative. I do plan on working with underserved populations, which is why I minored in Spanish so I can use it in my practice as a future physician.”

“This pandemic has shown me just how critical physicians are, and I am excited to see how myself and classmates can help in the Covid-19 crisis,” said Michelle Carfagno, who started to become very interested in medicine at age 12 when she had a knee injury.  A Cornell University graduate who majored in Biological Sciences, Carfagno is very interested in the relationship between nutrition and disease and is considering a path in primary care or perhaps specializing in GI diseases at some point.

First-year student Michelle Carfagno. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Career-changer Carlos Ortiz worked in the area of supply chain management but was also a volunteer EMT. He found EMT work fulfilling. That service along with his interest in maintaining physical health and supporting others to do the same inspired him to pursue medicine. Ortiz also found himself on the front lines during the pandemic, which he says further helped prep him for medical school.

As the need for more physicians continues in the U.S. and worldwide due to aging populations, increased medical interventions, and a new lens on public health due to the pandemic, it’s fitting that the 2021 incoming class is one of the RSOM’s largest to date. Four members of the school’s first entering class of 1971 attended the ceremony to celebrate with the new students. That class included only 24 individuals, 16 men and eight women.

Photo from Stony Brook University

A Commencement, double White Coat Ceremony and extended orientation to start the school year on the right foot 

The COVID-19 Pandemic has taken many recognitions and rights of passage away from those who have worked hard to reach their goals. Case in point: Commencement for an entire graduating class was celebrated virtually, if at all. An entire class of first-year students were unable to begin their college experience on campus. And, other professional students were unable to mark their hard-earned accomplishments with the proper pomp and circumstance.

Stony Brook University is now ensuring that all of these students will be able to finally have the opportunity to throw their caps, get to know their campus and ceremoniously put on their white coats, marking a return to some normalcy on campus.

Photo from Stony Brook University

On August 15, The Renaissance School of Medicine At Stony Brook University will host two white coat ceremonies. One of these is for the students in the Class of 2021, who will start their medical school journey this fall. The other is for the students who make up the incoming Class of 2020, who were unable to experience this milestone occasion because of restrictions caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Now these students can proudly participate in this right of passage by donning their white coats in front of friends, family, colleagues, faculty and staff. These ceremonies will take place in the Staller Center.

Stony Brook University will also be celebrating the graduating class of 2020, with an in-person Commencement ceremony. Taking place on Friday, September 10 at 4 p.m., this special commencement event will allow those students who were part of the 2020 graduating class a chance to create special memories with friends and family. Invitations were sent to more than 7,500 graduates and to date, more than 900 have indicated they will attend. More information will continue to be posted here.

As the Fall 2021 class of first-year students makes its way to campus, so will the 2020 class who did not have the opportunity to start their college experience off the way so many have done before them. To ensure everyone feels welcome and gets acclimated to the college campus, Stony Brook is kicking off New Seawolf Welcome Week. The week will kick off with move-in day on Monday, August 16 and the multi-day experience will be filled with workshops, meet-and-greets and more.

For more information on the White Coat Ceremony, or to attend, please contact Gregory.Filiano@stonybrookmed.edu.

For more information on the upcoming Commencement or orientation plans, please contact [email protected]

Photos courtesy of Stony Brook University. 

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A group of new Stony Brook medical students display their first stethoscopes, donated by the school’s alumni association. Photo from Stony Brook University School of Medicine

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.