The MD Class of 2024 celebrates an in-person white coat ceremony held two years later than usual.
Smiling and celebrating—a few even strutting—members of The Warren Alpert Medical School’s Class of 2024 received their white medical coats at a special ceremony nearly two years after they started at Brown.
The white coat ceremony, formally known as the Ceremony of Commitment to Medicine, is typically held in the fall of the students’ first year of medical school. It’s a way to acknowledge the effort and dedication that brought the future physicians to medical school and to welcome them into the profession.
“When you don your white coat, it’s the symbolization of not just the educational part of medicine, but also the patient care aspect,” says Roxanne Vrees ’98 MD’03 RES’07, associate dean for student affairs. “It all becomes real in that moment.”
But when members of the MD Class of 2024 arrived at Brown in fall 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was at a peak. To protect health and adhere to state and campus safety protocols, most classes and school events were held virtually. While medical students did receive a white doctor’s coat, their celebration took place online and mostly individually. It wasn’t until their second year that the public health situation improved to the point that they were able to gather in larger groups. Meanwhile, school leaders heard from students that it was important for this class to have their own in-person celebration when conditions allowed.
“It was a no-brainer that we should do this for the students,” Vrees says.
The spring celebration, held on April 30 and hosted by the Brown Medical Alumni Association, took place outdoors under a festively decorated tent two days before students started the clinical portion of their training—the second half of the medical school experience, during which they spend significant amounts of time in the hospitals and around patients, wearing their white coats.