Published August 16, 2021
The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences’ Class of 2025 — 184 students selected from the largest pool of applicants in the school’s history — celebrated entry into medical school with a traditional White Coat Ceremony Aug. 6 at Kleinhans Music Hall.
While last year’s ceremony was conducted in person for students only due to the COVID-19 pandemic — with others watching via videoconference — appreciative family and friends were on hand again this year for the event.
Michael E. Cain, MD, was recognized for his accomplishments at his final White Coat Ceremony as vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School. He is stepping down from both posts.
“Since he came here, Dr. Cain has been extremely supportive of the medical education mission,” said David A. Milling, MD, senior associate dean for student and academic affairs, who highlighted Cain’s accomplishments in his introduction. “His commitment has not only raised the stature of the school, but has also contributed immeasurably to the health and vitality of Western New York.”
“Congratulations again to all of you. For the reasons Dr. Milling mentioned, I will remember this one for a very long time,” said Cain, who will assume a faculty position in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. “You are an exceptional group of individuals. Accordingly, we have very high expectations for your future accomplishments and leadership in medicine, science and education.”
Cain also spoke of the responsibility the white coat has for those who wear it.
“The white coat is a symbol of our noble profession. It is a symbol of excellence, a symbol of professionalism in everything that we do. And it is a symbol of the trust one human being places in another,” Cain said. “You have worked incredibly hard and have now earned the right to wear one. Never forget what it symbolizes and always wear it well.”
Cain also emphasized the many roles needed to be a successful physician.
“You will learn to be a detective, an educator, a healer, a counselor, an advocate and a compassionate human being who will share with your patients both the joy of favorable outcomes and the pain and sorrow that accompany the delivery of tragic news,” Cain said. “This trust is a very special, but awesome responsibility, for this profession has no tolerance for second best.”
During the “calling of the class,” students were called to the stage individually and presented their white coat as Dori R. Marshall, MD ’97, associate dean and director of medical admissions, identified their hometowns and undergraduate affiliation to loud applause from family and friends in attendance.
“You are the class of students from the largest applicant pool that we’ve ever had,” Marshall said.
The Class of 2025 includes 184 students — 180 medical students and four MD-PhD students — who were selected from 6,111 applicants — an acceptance rate of 3 percent. The total number of applicants dwarfs 1974’s applicant pool of 5,317, previously the largest in school history.
The class is also unique in another way.
“You are also the first class to be entirely interviewed remotely, accepted before you even set foot in the medical school,” Marshall said.
The class has a grade point average of 3.66 and an average MCAT score of 510.
Students in this year’s class range in age from 21 to 31.
Eighty-eight percent of the class of 2025 — 162 students — are from New York State and 88 students — 47.8 percent — are from Western New York.
Students also hail from 13 other states and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Twenty-eight students earned their undergraduate degrees from UB.
Thirty-one of the students already have advanced degrees — either a master’s or a doctorate.
“You are a class that applied in the midst of a pandemic, in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, during the cycle when there were attacks on Asian-American communities, and all in a bitter national divide on who speaks the truth,” Marshall said.
In response to what was happening in the country, the admissions committee included an essay prompt for the applicants this year: “In 500 words or fewer, please explain how you would respond to a fellow student who muttered a racist or homophobic statement under their breath in your presence and that of your peers.”
“What you did with that prompt was remarkable, and the admissions committee enjoyed reading your responses all year long. Some of your replies were pointed, and succinct, while others were lengthy,” Marshall said. “What was clear in all your replies was that you had given this your due consideration, and in a majority of replies it was clear that you were almost waiting for the opportunity to respond to a question like this. You gave deep and measured responses, you spoke from a place of understanding of how important this matter is, how it relates to being a part of a community, and how it relates to caring for our patients.”
“As the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences strives to build an ever more inclusive environment and anti-racist curriculum, you are already primed to help us,” Marshall added. “I am proud the admissions committee chose you to be the Class of 2025. I can’t wait to see what you do.”
“By your actions you will make that white coat you’re holding more than a symbol,” Severin said. “Whether or not you are wearing the white coat, I hope you will display knowledge, respect, trust, compassion, empathy and humility.”
Many of those attributes are found in Kathleen T. Grimm, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, who was presented with the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award by Severin, who spoke of her commitment to palliative care through the mercy doula training program she established at the Erie County Medical Center (ECMC).
“Through the program, Dr. Grimm teaches health profession students about the dying process and how to talk with individuals at the end of their lives,” Severin said. “During these teaching sessions, she holistically describes the dying experience.”
At the end of the training, students visit critically ill patients at ECMC.
“Because of Dr. Grimm, they have been trained on patient support, whether that means reading, playing music, talking about the Bills, a simple hand squeeze, or performing a life review with open-minded and meaningful questions,” Severin said. “Students had such great experiences with the program that by their request, Dr. Grimm helped to incorporate many of those lessons into our curriculum at the Jacobs School.”
“Dr. Grimm loves teaching and interacting with medical students, and has inspired many to value palliative care, and consider it as a career focus,” Severin said.
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.