This week, members of the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s class of 2026 became new medical students, entering medicine at a critical and often tumultuous time.
“The current state of the world can be characterized by polarized beliefs, unequal treatment, violence and legitimate concerns about the state of our democracy,” said Brian Dwinnell, MD, FACP, associate dean of student life at the CU School of Medicine, Friday morning. to the collected class of 2026. “Understanding the social and personal influences on an individual’s health has never been more important. Despite technological advances in diagnosis and treatment, the power of empathy has never been greater.”
It was not a warning, but a call to hope and a reaffirmation of the determination and courage that brought the new arriving class of aspiring physicians to Friday morning’s White Coat ceremony, an annual tradition that welcomes new classes of medical students to the profession and to the family of medicine.
The faculty and staff of the CU School of Medicine, as well as the students’ family and friends, attended the White Coat Ceremony on Friday.
“Some have criticized the glorification of the white coat as a sign of elitism, but that is certainly not our intention,” Dwinnell said. “Our goal is to send the message that in your career you need to realize that a truly competent physician is one who combines excellence in scientific and clinical skills with compassionate patient care for all individuals in our communities. I have no doubt that the ceremony serves to remind students of the importance of developing into humanistic and caring doctors.”
Listening and learning from patients
The class of 2026 represents 28 U.S. states and includes 22 students born outside the United States. Of the total class numbers, 17% are first-generation students.
A member of the Class of 2026 participates in the White Coat Ceremony.
Students were encouraged to embrace the diversity of their classrooms as a strength because “the hard work ahead is actually healing the divisions that separate many of us from our neighbors,” says Shanta Zimmer, MD, senior associate dean for education and associate dean of diversity and inclusion in the CU School of Medicine. “As a doctor, you will be able, obliged and above all absolutely privileged to care for people who are different from you. That’s a gift that the medicine gives us and one that the white coat gives you figuratively. The gift of closeness and trust from another human being during one of their most trying times.”
As they embarked on what will be years of medical education and training, members of the class of 2026 were reminded that medicine is both an art and a science, balancing the rigor of research and more straightforward answers with the nuance and humanity found on bedside tables and in examination rooms.
“You learn about your patients – about their children, their current and past professions, their love of puzzles and chess and knitting and walking, their aversion to cheese, as well as blood draws and potassium pills and the dreaded side effects of their cancer therapies,” says Amira del Pino-Jones, MD, assistant dean of student affairs at CU School of Medicine. “You’ll listen to and learn from their families — how things used to be when they were healthy, and the difficulties they can experience now in the face of illness.”
Del Pino-Jones emphasized that as doctors, they will learn about the challenges their patients face in navigating the health care system and the prejudices they may have faced. “You will listen to your patients’ hopes and fears and help them express how they want to live the rest of their lives,” she added. “Every time you meet a patient, you become part of their story and they become part of yours. You will learn about love, joy, sorrow, humility and humanity, and it is these things that will propel you forward and make you strive to do better for all your patients.”
“An exciting time to enter medicine”
Friday’s White Coat Ceremony also honored 22 participants in the Gold Humanism Honor Society, members of the CU School of Medicine Class of 2023 who have shown extraordinary dedication to humanistic patient care, said Steven Lowenstein, MD, MPH, associate dean for faculty affairs and Gold Humanism Honor Society Chapter Adviser.
“Thank you for all the times you’ve put your own well-being on hold just for a moment longer so you can make a difference in someone else’s life,” Lowenstein told the inductees.
Each member of the Class of 2026 received a stethoscope donated by a CU School of Medicine alumnus.
Class of 2026 members were also recognized at the ceremony when they received their white coat and stethoscope donated by a CU School of Medicine alumnus. In a statement of honor, written by class members, they pledged to “embodies the principles of curiosity, dedication, and leadership” as they strive to conduct themselves with honor, humor, humility, and kindness.
“Students, now is an exciting time to study medicine,” Zimmer said. is also a time when society needs leadership from citizens like us – like you – who are compassionate, considerate and called to be focused on something beyond our own interests.”