Class of 2023 is Welcomed With White Coat Ceremony

Published August 19, 2019

The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Science’s Class of 2023 — 180 students strong ­ — celebrated entry into medical school with a traditional White Coat Ceremony Aug. 9 at the UB Center for the Arts.

“You’re all about to embark on an amazing journey and will do so with the support of your classmates, the guidance of the faculty and the wisdom of generations of physicians before you — all wearing the white coat you will first wear today.”
Clinical associate professor of neurology

The White Coat Ceremony is a rite of passage symbolizing the students’ commitment to professionalism and empathy in the practice of medicine.

Dean Speaks of Responsibility it Entails

Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the medical school, welcomed the class and also later led the class in a recitation of the Oath of Medicine.

“This is a special day for our medical students, and it is similarly a very special day for all of us at this school,” Cain said. “We are excited that you are now members of our UB family.”

He spoke of the responsibility the white coat has for those who wear it.

“The white coat is the symbol of our noble profession, a symbol of excellence and professionalism in everything we do and a symbol of the trust one human being places in another,” Cain said. “You have worked hard and earned the right to wear one today. Never forget what it symbolizes and wear it well.”

Class Selected From 3,823 Applicants

During the “calling of the class,” students were called to the stage individually and were presented their white coat as Dori R. Marshall, MD ’97, associate dean and director of medical admissions, identified their hometown and undergraduate affiliation as proud family members and friends looked on.

“While each of you has worked hard to get here, it did not happen in a bubble. There were people along the way — even if they are not here right now — who inspired, pushed and loved you as you set your eyes on this goal. I thank them for being there for you in years past and in years to come,” Marshall said.

This year’s class was selected from a pool of 3,823 applicants. The class has an average undergraduate GPA of 3.64 and an average MCAT score of 510.

The class is composed of 101 women and 79 men. Class members range in age from 18 to 37.

Eighty-three percent of the class of 2023 — 149 students — are from New York State and 89 students are from Western New York. Thirty-three students earned their undergraduate degrees from UB.

In all, 31 states and the District of Columbia are represented, as well as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Global Health, Research are Key Priorities

While the vast majority of this year’s class majored in basic sciences as undergraduates, 27 are non-science majors. Five have doctoral degrees and 27 have master’s degrees.

Members of the Class of 2023 have participated in global health outreach in 29 different countries throughout North America, South America, Africa, Europe and every single country in Central America.

They have done research with the National Institutes of Health, Oshei Children’s Hospital, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and other institutions. Four are starting in the MD-PhD program. One class member already has 86 peer-review publications.

Thirty-four have worked as either scribes or medical assistants and 22 are emergency medical technicians.

Service to Others Shown in Volunteer Work

“You have volunteered thousands upon thousands of hours in hospitals, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. You have tutored inner-city children and you have taught English to refugees. You have worked with developmentally disabled children and adults,” said Marshall, assistant professor of psychiatry.

The well-rounded class includes dancers, choreographers, singers, pianists, a cellist, a bassoonist, an oboist and a violinist. It includes varsity athletes from alpine skiing, baseball, fencing, hockey, soccer, swimming and diving and track and field.

One classmate has earned a U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license for proficiency in sailing.

“Take pride in your class and support each other. The next four years will be filled with hard work. There will be exhilaration and joy at times, but frustration and sadness at other times,” Marshall said. “The bonds you create among yourselves can make the good times better, and the difficult times easier to bear.”

Keynote Speaker Stresses Continuous Learning

Nicholas J. Silvestri, MD ’04, clinical associate professor of neurology, gave the keynote address.

“I’m very humbled in being asked to give this address. It’s very meaningful to me because I was inducted into the medical profession 19 years ago in this very ceremony,” said Silvestri, who has done studies on Guillain-Barre syndrome, myasthenia gravis and polyneuropathy.

“You’re all about to embark on an amazing journey and will do so with the support of your classmates, the guidance of the faculty and the wisdom of generations of physicians before you — all wearing the white coat you will first wear today,” he added.

Silvestri told the class members of the tremendous opportunity they have before them.

“Medicine is an incredibly dynamic field. To give just one example: There have been over 300 medications approved by the FDA since I graduated medical school 15 years ago, including several in my field for previously incurable diseases. So it’s a great time to be a doctor,” said Silvestri, assistant dean for graduate medical education.

He also emphasized that while a short white coat may signify a doctor in training, in one way there won’t be much difference when they move on to their long white coats.

“The truth is that a physician is never done training. I learn something from colleagues, students, patients or their families just about every day,” said Silvestri, who also serves as director of the adult neurology residency program. “Medicine is a field which requires constant learning. This is only the beginning.”

He also spoke about the importance of how they conduct themselves.

“How you do anything is how you do everything — how you study, how you approach a clinical rotation or an exam, how you interact with your colleagues, how you care for your patients, how you care for yourself,” Silvestri said. “Strive for excellence. Strive to be the best person you can be so you can become the best doctor you can be.”

Donhauser Honored With Humanism Award

During the ceremony, Jessica A. Donhauser, MD ’13, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics, was presented with the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award.

“Some physicians go above and beyond the call of duty, and Dr. Donhauser has done that,” said Charles M. Severin, MD ’97, PhD, associate dean for student and academic affairs, who presented the award.

Medical students nominate outstanding role models for the award. They were effusive in their praise of Donhauser, who also completed her internship and residency at UB.

One nominator said that Donhauser “treats every single resident and student with respect, and as a result, morale is always high when she is on service.”

Another said “when she provides constructive criticism, she does so in a nonjudgmental way that wants you to keep asking her for more.”

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.