UofSC School of Medicine Greenville first-year medical students celebrated a key moment in their medical-education journey as their white coats were conferred upon them at a ceremony Sept. 18.
“We have all worked so hard all of our lives to reach this point,” said medical student Max Vogel. “It is surreal to see it.”
Vogel was one of 107 first-year students who donned their white coats, a symbol of their entry into the medical profession, and pledged their commitment to the profession and to the health of the patients they will serve. White coats were placed on students’ shoulders by faculty and administrators, as well as scholarship donors, at the Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony.
The moment marks a culmination of hard work and dreams and a dedication to helping others.
“Medicine is truly a calling, and your white coat is a symbol to the world that you are someone who has been called to lead, called to serve, and called to heal,” SOMG Dean Marjorie Jenkins, MD MEdHP FACP, told students.
Keynote speaker Dr. Lisa Green, MD, Associate Program Director of the OBYGN Residency Program at Prisma Health, encouraged the group of future physicians to listen to their patients. “When you are truly listening, you aren’t just trying to think of the differential diagnosis, the pathophysiology, you are listening to understand, to empathize, to comfort,” Dr. Green told the first-year students.
She encouraged them to stay the course over the next phase of their medical education and to have confidence in themselves during challenging times and inevitable moments of uncertainty. “The road will not be easy, but you will get there,” Green told students.
The White Coat Ceremony is a rite of passage for medical students across the country, and was created by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 1993. The School of Medicine Greenville Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony, attended by first-year students’ families and friends, comes in the 10th anniversary of the SOMG, which opened to its inaugural class of students in July, 2012. The event was held at Furman University on Sunday, Sept. 18.
For first-year student Georgette Adae-Mensah, the ceremony provided a brief pause in the semester and a chance to celebrate her and her fellow students' entry into the medical profession. “It is great to be here and see everyone get their white coats,” she said. “This gives us a little pep in our step.
”Yet, the work continues.
“We have a quiz tomorrow,” said Adae-Mensah, a Prisma Health Scholarship recipient.
Horng-Shane Nieh, the Youkey Family Scholarship recipient, plans to specialize in pediatrics. “The beauty of medicine,” he said, is that each milestone is followed by continuous improvement — and "always learning and always trying to improve yourself.”
“Although I have made it here, that is not where the path stops,” Nieh said before he received his white coat.
Of the 107 students at the ceremony, 16 are recipients of named scholarships. Named scholarships are an opportunity for donors to recognize and celebrate loved ones while supporting the next generation of physicians. Many donors were in attendance at the ceremony to present and assist their scholar recipients with their white coats.
For medical students, receiving the white coat is considered a life-changing event. “It is very exciting,” said Vogel, who plans to specialize in hematology-oncology and hopes to practice in South Carolina.
“It is an honor to stand here as your dean today and to participate in what will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable moments of your life,” Dean Jenkins told students. “I remember getting my white coat. We didn’t have a white coat ceremony, but I remember putting on my coat for the first time, and I always love putting it on for this very special day as well.”
The medical-education journey is far from over.
“This is a long journey that you are on right now,” Dr. Jonathan Gleason, MD, Prisma Health executive vice president and chief clinical officer, said to students. “It certainly is not the beginning. All of you worked hard to earn your place here at the School of Medicine Greenville. You have done so many different things, and someday, seven to ten years from now, you are going to come out of your training. That is a long time, but it is a great time. It can be a lot of fun. Certainly, it is going to be a lot of hard work. But please remember to enjoy the journey.”