The 137 individuals who are now new students at the Renaissance School of Medicine (RSOM) at Stony Brook University took their first official step toward becoming physicians at the White Coat Ceremony, an annual RSOM tradition since 1998. The students received their first physician “white coats” and took the Hippocratic Oath for the first time at the August 14 ceremony at Staller Center.
The incoming students are entering healthcare during a crucial juncture and changing time in medicine as the worldwide pandemic has ushered in new infection control practices, telemedicine practices have become commonplace, other technologies in medicine are bringing diagnostic and treatment capabilities to higher levels, and the need for physicians and specialists continues to increase with aging populations in many areas around the world.
William Wertheim, MD, interim dean, welcomed the new class who he characterized as a talented, diverse and highly select group. He stressed that professionalism, compassion for patients and lifelong learning will be some of the key aspects to having a successful medical career.
Collectively, the incoming class received their undergraduate degrees from 67 different universities or colleges. Stony Brook University had the highest school representation; 25 students received their undergraduate degree from Stony Brook. These include individuals such as Sadé Taylor, a Brooklyn, NY, native who completed her BS in health science and her MS in physiology and biophysics at Stony Brook; and Brigitte Maczaj Cox, who majored in anthropology at Stony Brook and whose mother is an alumnus of the RSOM.
Only eight percent of the more than 5,700 applicants for the 2022-2023 academic year were accepted into the RSOM. Women comprise 53 percent of the class, and more than one-third of the students (36 percent) come from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Additionally, 18 percent of the class are individuals considered to be from backgrounds that are historically underrepresented in medicine.
While the class consists of new students hailing from all over the country – coming from a total of 13 states – New York state remains dominant. One hundred (73 percent) of the students are from New York – 43 of those from Long Island, 32 from New York City and 25 from upstate regions.
One student, Erin Crawford, was a cardiology nurse for seven years at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago before the pull toward becoming a physician took hold. After completing a post-baccalaureate program and helping with clinical research at Northwestern, she was sure medicine is for her.
“I’m proud to have a nursing background and look forward to seeing how this shapes my perspective and relationships as a physician,” said Crawford. “I always loved cardiology but am looking forward to re-exploring other clinical areas and open to being surprised by what might grab me as I go through medical school.”
Nicholas Dodge, a Cornell University graduate who also received his PhD in chemistry from the University of Vermont, decided to become a physician after assisting his mother while her chronic illness advanced.
“I became very involved in my mother’s care, and the dedication and compassion of her physicians truly inspired and moved me,” said Dodge. “After a period of grief and reflection, I pursued medicine to give back to others the way that it was given to my family.”
Another Cornell graduate, Richard Rosin, a heavyweight rower and Long Island native, returned to Long Island to teach chemistry at Chaminade High School in Mineola, as well as coach rowing. He embraced the community, joined a volunteer ambulance corps, then worked to become an EMT, which all led to his pursuit of medicine.
White coat ceremonies remain an initiation rite and tradition at many established medical schools nationwide, as the coat is symbolic to medicine representing professionalism with scientific excellence and compassionate care.