Students are told to expect “an amazing, incredible ride”
It is an annual rite of passage. Each year, the School of Medicine welcomes its entry-level students to a White Coat Ceremony, marking their official entry into the study of medicine.
On August 1, Angela Jackson, associate professor of medicine and associate professor of student affairs, welcomed the smiling group of family and friends who had gathered to witness the Class of 2026 receiving their white coats. on this path that leads to a demanding but rewarding and meaningful career in medicine.”
Vincent Smith, MED professor of pediatrics, welcomed the students, who gathered Monday under a large white tent on Talbot Green for what he called “the noblest profession.”
“It will bring you joy. It will hurt you…. There will be highs and lows, but overall it will be a great, incredible ride,” said Smith, this year’s guest speaker.
The heart of the ceremony is the presentation of the white coats. Faculty counselors that the medical students will have for the next four years will help each incoming student don their white coat embroidered with their name, which is symbolic of the medical profession. “When you put on that white coat for the first time today, the message is not that you are expected to become a professional, but that you are part of the profession from today,” said Karen Antman, MED Dean and Provost of the Medical Campus. The White Coat Ceremony is one of the rare moments during their medical training when the whole class comes together. Presenting the class to Antman, Associate Dean for Admissions Kristen Goodell shared some stats. The 159 members of the 174th enrollment class were selected from a pool of more than 11,400 applicants. They come from 30 states and 30 countries and speak 26 languages.
“As we welcome you … our common intention is for you to achieve your goals so that you can begin to make the world a better place,” Goodell said.
But even super achievers are challenged by medical school.
“You and your classmates will have challenges, that’s normal in medical school,” Antman warned. “It’s supposed to be hard; if it was easy, anyone could do it,” she added, paraphrasing a quote from the film Your own competition.
Newly coated Justin Grant (MED’26) said he felt like he had come a long way with a lot more ahead of him. An Atlanta native and a graduate of Morehouse College, Grant enrolled in MED’s Early Medical School Selection Program, an early insurance program developed in 1982 that aims to diversify the physician workforce.
“I’m not very nervous or anxious right now, I feel very good,” Grant said.
Brittny Garcia is from the Rio Grande Valley, “extreme South Texas.” The graduate of the University of Texas at Austin chose MED for its commitment to diversity and its focus on serving underserved populations. She hopes to take what she learns and return to serve her community and others like it.
“I really felt like I was welcome, and this is where I needed to be,” she said. “They really made me feel like I had a place in medicine.”
Guest speaker Smith’s backstory showed that the path of life is rarely straight and predictable. Describing himself as a “short, chubby kid with thick glasses,” Smith said he grew up in Texas, a school kid, black and gay. One teacher told him that black children never meant anything, and another predicted he would be dead or in jail by 21.
But Smith had his champions, a supportive mother, and “help from people who had nothing to gain by helping me.”
He is a graduate of Texas A&M University, Stanford University School of Medicine and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. He trained in pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center (BMC), the BU’s primary teaching hospital, in the Boston Combined Pediatric Residency Program. Now he is BMC’s chief of newborn medicine.
“I wish I could tell you that my path was well planned, and that I had everything planned out and everything went according to plan, but that’s just not true,” Smith told the assembled audience.
His grandmother, who turned 104, told him that age brings understanding, and with that in mind, he passed on the advice he would have given his younger self: hang on, life gets better; inner beauty obscures outer appearance; and make the best possible decision with the information you have.
“Be generous with your time, love and resources,” Smith told the students. “What you get in return is immeasurable.”
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