Margaret Ahern and her fellow members of the Class of 2024 recite “The Oath of Medicine” at the conclusion of their White Coat Ceremony at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Orientation officially begins on Monday, August 2nd, 2021. The White Coat ceremony will tentatively take place on Friday, August 6th, 2021. Students in the class of 2025 are required to attend orientation activities, so please plan accordingly.
Welcome to the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. This is my 15th orientation week as dean.
In some ways, this week — culminating with the white coat ceremony on Friday, and the excitement we each have to meet you and to begin a new academic year — is similar to my previous 13 first weeks of medical school.
On the other hand, this week, like last year, is quite different than prior years. You are entering medical school at a time of startling change. We remain in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, although we are in a much better place than we were this time last year. Nevertheless, this assault by a pathogen has affected every aspect of our professional and private lives. It will still impact your first semester of medical school. You are a unique group of new medical students. You, unlike most of your predecessors, have directly experienced early in your careers the horrific impact of such a global menace on the public health, on your own health, and on your daily lives.
In addition, we, our school, our local community, and our nation are addressing the role of racism in medicine and in our society. We in the Jacobs School are sensitive to the impact of these changes on all of us. As new members of our Jacobs School family, you will join us as we work to be more inclusive, diverse, sensitive, professional and humanistic in all that we do.
The Jacobs School has a mission to create new knowledge and communicate this knowledge to you. We fulfill this mission through four published strategic plans focused on medical education, research, clinical care and inclusion. We take seriously our responsibility to improve the human condition through our scholarship, clinical care, engagement and our medical educational programs.
We are fortunate to have an outstanding group of faculty leaders and staff in our offices of student affairs and medical curriculum, who are here to help you.
You will be our partners in the process of seeking and using knowledge to build a better world. You will learn from respected thought leaders, scientists, teachers and practitioners, who have designed your training programs to prepare you for future success.
You will develop broad and deep domain knowledge in medicine and related disciplines; and you will be ready to put this knowledge into practice four years from now when you begin your graduate medical education.
You will take advantage of our Jacobs School’s cutting-edge research facilities by participating in faculty-led and individual research opportunities in basic, clinical and translational sciences. This research will help us better understand how our bodies function and how to treat human diseases.
You will work hard; gain exposure to ideas, scientific concepts and technologies; have meaningful interactions with your peers and mentors; and most importantly discover who you really are. You will realize your strengths and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes, the limits of your stamina, and your tolerance for stress. These are the experiences that will shape your unique perspective and way of approaching the world as physicians.
It will be this distinctive combination of classroom, simulation, active learning, applied learning, research and clinical care that will enable you to develop the creativity, innovation, empathy and leadership skills needed to succeed as physicians, scientists, educators and thought leaders.
Your education will prepare you to be flexible and responsive to shifting trends and needs, meet challenges head-on, be lifelong learners, and to take advantage of opportunities. These are the attributes that will assure your success in the future, no matter what it may bring.
This process worked for me. I attended George Washington University Medical School. My experiences in medical school confirmed my passion for human physiology, promoting wellness and managing disease. These experiences told me I enjoyed and had talents treating medical problems using both invasive and pharmaceutical approaches. My clerkship experiences pointed me to internal medicine and the desire to specialize in either hematology/oncology or cardiology. I enjoyed inpatient and outpatient medicine; and I enjoyed invasive procedures.
I matched in the internal medicine program at Washington University in St. Louis. My experiences as a medical resident drove me to specialize in cardiology. These experiences also made it clear to me that I made many patient management decisions based on the art of medicine and not the science of medicine; and they convinced me to devote a significant amount of my professional effort to meaningful research in the clinical setting.
I entered the cardiology fellowship program at Washington University, which had a required 1- to 2-year mentored research experience that was in addition to clinical training. My research interest was at a basic level and focused on cardiac electrophysiology and cardiac arrhythmias.
At the same time, a new subspecialty in clinical cardiac electrophysiology was emerging. There were only four or five established training centers in the United States. One was at the University of Pennsylvania.
I spent the final 18 months of my graduate medical training in Philadelphia learning how to be a clinical electrophysiologist and how to be a hypothesis-testing clinical investigator.
I then returned to Washington University, joined the faculty in the cardiology division and was the inaugural director of the clinical and clinical research electrophysiology laboratory. I had the privilege of assembling a team of physicians and scientists that together made contributions to our understanding and treatment of atrial fibrillation, other supraventricular tachycardias, and sudden cardiac death.
I also learned that I enjoyed administration and building academic programs. I accepted the offer to be the Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. I served in this role from 1993 to 2006. In 2006, I came to the Jacobs School as dean.
Throughout my career, my confidence that I could do something well has stemmed from getting to know myself while I was in medical school and during my graduate medical education training.
Back to you. When you look at the entire world, you, as medical students, are a privileged group that have already achieved greatness. Medicine is a most noble profession. It is the only one I am aware of that strives each day to rid the very reason, human disease, for its existence. You have now entered this profession.
Each of you has the capacity to change the world. We are excited that you are members of our UB family. You are an exceptional group of individuals. We have high expectations for your future accomplishments and leadership in medicine, science and education. I urge you to take what you will learn and apply it to improve the human condition.
I will end on a personal note. After serving as vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School for the past 15 years, I will be stepping down from these administrative positions later this fall. A national search to identify a new vice president and dean is underway. During the past several years, I have become enamored with the process of how to change education, and I have been equally impressed with the transformations of our medical curriculum that have occurred already and are planned over the next two years. I will be joining the growing group of exceptional faculty and staff to help in this process.
You, our students, are why we exist. I look forward to working with you more in my new role than deans and vice presidents can do during the time we serve in these administrative roles. My best wishes to you for a healthy and successful year.
Michael E. Cain, MD
Vice President for Health Sciences and
Dean, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences