As the 50th class of medical students slipped into their white physician coats for the first time, faculty members, family and friends reflected on both the history and future of Penn State College of Medicine.
They detailed the unprecedented diversity among students in the entering class, celebrated the growth of the college's University Park Regional Campus, and gave the future physicians a sense of the seriousness of their chosen profession. The White Coat Ceremony took place on July 28.
Dr. Dwight Davis, associate dean for admissions and student affairs, said more than half of the 152 students in the entering class are women, and more than 40 percent identify themselves as part of an ethnic minority. He noted that as a whole, members of the entering class have been to more than 50 countries and speak more than 25 languages.
“We believe that a large part of the educational experience comes from the relationships they have with their classmates, so we want them to learn to value different perspectives that will help them relate to their patients better,” he said. “They will be caring for an increasingly diverse population.”
Dr. Terry Wolpaw, vice dean for educational affairs, said in other ways, the current crop of students is not so different from the first class that came to campus.
“What does it mean to come to a brand new medical school? It means you are a risk taker and a pioneer,” she said. “In our changing healthcare environment of today, we need students who are visionary thinkers, who are willing to risk trying new ways to practice.”
Vanessa Vides of Las Vegas said Penn State was her first choice for medical school because of how it incorporates the humanities into medicine. In fact, the college's Department of Humanities was the first of its kind in the nation, and one of the founding departments when Penn State College of Medicine opened its doors in 1967.
Vides was one of five student design partners who worked with faculty members to create a new four-year medical school curriculum at the University Park Regional Campus.
“I thought it would be an incredible opportunity,” she said. “It's an experiential learning model that immerses the students in clinic from the very first days of medical school so their learning is done in the context of the patients they see rather than just a textbook.”
In her remarks to the entering class, Wolpaw reminded the students of both the honor and responsibility they should feel at being part of so many people's lives. “You must make a commitment to yourself to do everything possible to change that person's story for the better,” she said.
Classmates Abena Kwegyir-Aggrey, Lexi Hyczko and Rahul Gupta were giddy with excitement at the significance of the day.
“I have wanted to be a doctor since I was 5 years old,” said Gupta, who came to Hershey from Texas. “I always envisioned this moment when I was little – I'm finally entering the field of medicine. It's a dream come true.”
If you're having trouble accessing this content, or would like it in another format, please email Penn State Health Marketing & Communications.