Published May 27, 2022
The traditional presentation of the white coat to medical and biomedical science students signifies their entry into the profession and the start of their careers in medicine.
This week, students in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences who continued to struggle with the aftermath of the May 14 mass shooting concluded that the white coat could also become a meaningful symbol of unity and thanks.
They focused on Lt. Aaron Salter Jr., the retired Buffalo police officer who lost his life while trying to save others.
On Tuesday afternoon, a couple of students groups sent their message schoolwide: “Our community lost a total of 10 innocent people that day, but the number would certainly be higher if not for Lt. Salter attempting to fend off the shooter, knowing the odds were against him.”
The message invited Jacobs School medical and biosciences graduate students, faculty and staff to come to Room 2213 on Wednesday and Thursday to write personal messages of thanks on a white coat to be presented to the Salter family.
“The way we honor our own in medicine and science is with the white coat,” said Jamal Williams, a recent Jacobs School graduate who grew up in the Jefferson Avenue neighborhood and who organized the signing with Beatrice Gonzalez, also a recent Jacobs School graduate.
“Military and law enforcement officers have their own uniforms,” Williams said “Lt. Salter served as an officer and then continued to serve as a security guard at Tops. He still put his life on the line. We decided we should honor his service in the best way we know how.”
During the two days of signing, more than 130 Jacobs School students, faculty and staff signed the coat with messages of honor and thanks to Salter.
“The white coat is a great honor and a great privilege, it shows deep caring for the community, patients and patients’ families,” said Allison Brashear, vice president for health sciences and Jacobs School dean, who signed the coat on Wednesday. “We are so grateful that our students came up with this way to be able to honor him and to find a way to thank him for protecting the community that day and also during his lifetime.”
She added that the Tops market where the mass shooting occurred is not far from the Jacobs School. “What happened impacts our students, our patients, our faculty and staff. It’s in our backyard.”