University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
Skip to Content
 Michael E. Cain, MD

Michael E. Cain, MD, dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, welcomes the Class of 2020 during the White Coat Ceremony.

Class of 2020 Begins Medical School with White Coat Ceremony

Published August 19, 2016

A new class of 149 students celebrated its entry into the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences with a traditional White Coat Ceremony Aug. 12 at the UB Center for the Arts.

“Our job is to educate you in the best way we can, but ultimately your success is up to you.”
Professor of medicine

During the ceremony’s “Calling of the Class,” school officials called students individually to the stage; announced their hometowns and undergraduate institutions; and presented them with white coats — a symbol of their future profession.

Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the medical school, noted that “the white coat is a symbol for our noble profession, a symbol for excellence and professionalism in absolutely everything we do and a symbol for the trust one human being places in another.”

In welcoming the Class of 2020, he advised them: “You have worked hard and have earned the right to wear it today. The good news is you must now work harder to earn the right to keep it — never forget what it symbolizes; always wear it well.”

Class Selected from 4,490 Applications

The class was selected from a pool of 4,490 applicants, according to Charles M. Severin, MD, PhD, associate dean for medical education and admissions.

The number of applicants is 2.9 percent higher than last year’s total of 4,362 and higher still than the 4,201 received in 2014.

Eighty-eight percent of the class of 2020 — 131 students — out of the total are from New York State with 65 students from Western New York. Forty-two students earned their undergraduate degrees from UB.

Extensive Backgrounds in Research

Many of the students have conducted research in various disciplines such as astrophysics, medical ethics, spinal cord injury, aphasia and stroke, eating disorders in children, organometallics and trauma triage.

One member was named a National Institute on Drug Abuse Scholar.

One hundred and twenty, or 81 percent, of the class were science majors. Among the non-science majors were theater, business, history and economics. Double majors included community health and Spanish; broadcast communications and biological sciences; nuclear medical technology and psychology; and biology and Latin American Studies.

Two members of the class have doctoral degrees (in anthropology and physics) and 12 have master’s degrees (in biomedical sciences, epidemiology, natural and biomedical sciences, nursing, nutrition science, physics, physiology and public health).

A Wide Array of Honors and Awards

Incoming medical students received numerous accolades for academic excellence, service and other accomplishments.

Students were honored with:

  • memberships in Phi Beta Kappa
  • the highest scouting ranks of Eagle Scout and Girl Scout Gold Award
  • Tau Beta Pi (National Engineering Honor Society)
  • memberships in Mortar Board (National College Senior Honor Society)

Community Service, Global Health Assistance

Their community service includes:

  • working as a World Health Organization intern in Geneva, Switzerland
  • adaptive ski instructor for people with cognitive disabilities and injured military personnel
  • cerebral palsy equine therapy volunteer
  • co-founder of a group whose focus was to secure food and supplies for widowed women and children in the slums of Afghanistan

Members of the Class of 2020 have traveled to Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Africa, Haiti and El Salvador to assist physicians caring for underserved patients. One member worked in a leprosy camp in Ghana.

They have held positions related to medicine, including EMR consultant, scribe, dietitian, eye bank technician and birthing assistant at a birthing center. Several have volunteered at free clinics, soup kitchens and a camp for children with muscular dystrophy.

One student was a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007 and 2008 and received a Good Conduct Medal, and another is a classical violinist who was a member of the New York State All-State Orchestra and Erie County All-County Orchestra.

State Commissioner of Health Offers Perspective

Guest speaker Howard A. Zucker, MD, New York State’s commissioner of health, told the class they were about to embark on a journey that is like none other and noted medical school “will be both the hardest and most excruciating and the most exciting, enthralling and wonderful years of your life.”

“This is truly the most wonderful profession of all, and I have to tell you I have been a lot of places — I have been around the world and worked with heads of state — but there is nothing that can compare to knowing that deep inside you saved someone’s life,” he said.

“Now I have to give you a little spoiler alert, it’s not going to happen this year or next year, but one day you will save someone’s life.”

Zucker earned his medical degree from George Washington University School of Medicine at age 22, becoming one of America’s youngest doctors. He is board-certified in five specialties and subspecialties.

His vast experience in public policy began as a White House Fellow. Subsequently he became the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health where he developed the nation’s Medical Reserve Corps.

Keynote Speaker Advocates Teamwork, Show of Respect

James W. Lohr, MD, professor of medicine, program director of the nephrology fellowship and chief of nephrology at the Buffalo VA Medical Center, gave the keynote address.

He told the class it has been 40 years since he was in medical school, and thanks to major advances in technology, the medical students will have to assimilate much more information than he did in medical school.

“Things such as CT scans, MRIs, robotic devices to assist in surgery, bone marrow transplants, stem cell therapies — none of these existed when I was going to medical school,” he noted.

Lohr said it is important for medical students to be team players, not only with physicians, but with nurses and aides as well.

“You’ll be amazed how much easier nurses can make your life if you treat them with respect and how difficult the work can become if you don’t,” he said.

Lohr also issued another important reminder to “always treat every patient with respect.”

He also noted the many resources the medical school offers, but added that much rests with the students themselves.

“All of you will graduate from medical school if you apply yourself, study hard and work hard,” he said. “Our job is to educate you in the best way we can, but ultimately your success is up to you.”

His research interests are following the treatment of diabetic kidney disease, the treatment of edema, chronic kidney disease and treatment of hypertension.

Zulqarni Honored with Humanism Award

During the ceremony, Naz J. Zulqarni, MBBS, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics, was presented with the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award.

Medical students nominate outstanding role models for the award.

Known affectionately by her students as “Dr. Naz,” Zulqarni was described by one nominator as “the most compassionate, caring, loving physician and person I have ever come across in my life.”

Zulqarni was honored with the 2016 Louis A. and Ruth Siegel Award for teaching in the clinical program and also received an honorable mention in the volunteer teaching category for the same award in 2015.

Sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the Tow Award recognizes a faculty member who demonstrates outstanding compassion in the delivery of care; respect for patients, their families and health-care colleagues; and demonstrated clinical excellence.