OUWB White Coat Ceremony welcomes ninth class of medical students
White Coat Ceremony 1

The Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine Class of 2023 received its official welcome to the school — and field of health care — during a White Coat Ceremony held Friday, Aug. 9.

Marking the end of a week of orientation, the annual rite of passage welcomes students, and emphasizes the value of humanism as the core of health care by stressing the importance of compassion and scientific excellence alike.

During the ceremony, the 125 members of the class each accepted their own physician white coat. The class also recited the Oath of Geneva — the declaration of physicians' dedication to the humanitarian goals of medicine — in front of family members, school leadership, and peers.

Duane Mezwa, M.D., FACR, Stephan Sharf Interim Dean, OUWB, professor, Diagnostic Radiology and Molecular Medicine, welcomed the students, families, and friends to the ceremony.

“Today, your medical school journey is about to begin,” Mezwa said. “And believe me, it is a life changing one, no doubt.”

Mezwa told the more than 700 in attendance that his medical career began more than 40 years ago — and that he distinctly remembers being at the beginning, just like the class of 2023. 

“I remember feeling incredibly grateful and thinking about my exciting new future when I began my medical school training,” he said. “I’ve worn many white coats over the decades, but I’ve never forgotten how good it felt to put on that very first one.”

Mezwa also urged students not to take the opportunity for granted. 

“This opportunity to attend medical school is truly a privilege,” Mezwa said. “We saw something in each and every one of you.”

More than 7,500 people applied to be a member of OUWB’s class of 2023. Of those, 480 people were interviewed with 125 making the cut.

Class of 2023 students represent a total of 53 undergraduate schools, including Oakland University, University of Michigan, Wayne State University, University of California-Los Angeles, and Michigan State University.

Associate Dean for Student Affairs Sandra LaBlance, Ph.D., shared additional information about the diverse backgrounds and interests of the students, which ranged from having saved baby ducks to having climbed an active volcano. 

She also noted that the class members have collectively spent more than 175,000 hours providing service to local communities, schools, and abroad. 

“We look forward to this level of intensity from all you starting today, and continuing throughout your journey through medical school,” LaBlance said. 

When it came time for the students to accept their white coats, LaBlance gave a brief intro. 

“The donning of the white coat marks the beginning of each student’s journey to becoming a physician,” LaBlance said. “For more than 100 years, the white coats have been worn by physicians and students symbolizing the trust between the patient and physician.

“Today, in the presence of families and friends, our students will be welcomed into the profession,” she continued. 

Students were cloaked in their respective white coats by their PRISM mentors. PRISM (an acronym for Promoting Reflections and Individual growth through Support and Mentoring) is a multi-layered system of support, along with a four-year curriculum that focuses on personal growth, wellness, and career development. PRISM mentors are assigned to students for all four years of medical school. 

Many students said taking part in a White Coat Ceremony is something they imagined time and time again before it actually happened Friday.

“The White Coat Ceremony is something we dream about since we sign up as biology majors,” said M1 Sunny Khatter, whose family traveled from Colorado to attend the event. 

“My dad and sister both have doctorate degrees and it’s like joining the ranks of the family,” Khatter said. “I’ve been dreaming about this day for a long time.”

Khatter’s classmate M1 Moneb Bughrara expressed similar feelings and said he appreciated acknowledgement of the work that went into getting to the point of starting medical school. 

“It feels kind of surreal,” he said with a beaming smile. “We all knew this moment was coming, but it’s kind of crazy for it to actually be happening.

M1 Ben Goldstein said it felt “amazing” to be taking part in the ceremony. 

“It’s a new beginning,” he said, adding that it felt like “going from a child to really being an adult, and really having a chance to make a difference in this world.” 

Goldstein said the medical professional runs in his family with his grandfather and father. 

“I’m glad to be a third generation health care practitioner,” he said. 

Family members also said they were excited to be there in support of their loved ones. 

Mark Saleh, an Oakland University graduate, attended the ceremony in support of his cousin, M1 Christopher Issa. 

“He’s worked hard to get to this point, and I have no doubts he’s going to be a great doctor,” he said. 

Linda Dorschner, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, attended the ceremony to support her daughter, M1 Jessica Dorschner.  She said it felt “wonderful” to be attending and was the first to embrace her daughter after she accepted her white coat. 

“I’m very proud,” Linda said. “Ever since Jessica was a little girl, it was easy to tell that medicine was going to be her field and now it is.”

Before students left the grand ballroom to have their class photo taken, Mezwa concluded the ceremony by quoting “Dare to Be Yourself” by Buckminster Fuller, an American visionary and architect.

“Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world,” Mezwa said. “In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.”

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