One hundred and twenty new medical students — including a record number from UCF — received their white coats Monday in recognition of being colleagues in healthcare and pledged to serve their community by becoming “one of good doctors.
UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright told medical candidates for the Class of 2026 that there’s never been a better time to be a part of Orlando’s fledgling medical school.
“This college was designed to be a model of 21st century medical education, inventing new ways to help people live better lives and teaching you to practice medicine not just for today, but for tomorrow,” said he declared. “Your potential will be unleashed through our academic health sciences center that brings together UCF’s expertise in health education, research, and clinical practice – in the heart of the Orlando Medical City in Lake Nona.”
New medical students include artists, athletes, soldiers and scientists. They earned their undergraduate degrees from colleges and universities such as Duke, Emory, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and UCLA; 30 — more than any other in the history of the medical school — are UCF Knights.
Kevin Reyes is one such UCF undergraduate. After earning his bachelor’s degree from the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, Reyes says he was excited to go to medical school at UCF because it will be part of the emerging Medical City and “pave the way for the next generation of Knights”.
The Lake Nona Biosciences Cluster includes the UCF Academic Health Sciences Center and its medical school, the UCF Lake Nona Hospital, and the new UCF Lake Nona Cancer Center. In addition, UCF is working on the construction of an innovative new College of Nursing building next to the medical school, with the goal of co-locating many of its health education programs at Lake Nona in order to to increase interdisciplinary education, research and patient care.
Monday was the 14th of the College of Medicinee White Coat Ceremony and included a tradition that has occurred since the Charter Class was enrolled in 2009. Before students received their white coats, Deborah German, Vice President of Health Affairs and Founding Dean, led their first class of medical school, “The Good Doctor – A UCF Tradition.
She asks students to think of the person they love the most and then list the characteristics of the doctor they want to treat their loved one for a serious undiagnosed illness. As the students call out a trait, German writes it down on a blackboard that remains displayed in the medical school atrium throughout the year.
New medical student Arielle Patterson was born into a military family and serves in the U.S. Army Reserve. She suggested two words – discipline and self-awareness because she says doctors need to be disciplined to show the same level of care to every patient and aware to recognize their own biases and limitations.
The Class of 2026 selected a total of 42 Good Doctor Traits which also included Courageous, Humble, Ethical, Compassionate, Holistic, Grateful, Knowledgeable, Dedicated, and Prioritizing Diversity and Inclusion.
“We fully expect you to become that doctor. These traits live and breathe inside of you. That’s why you’re here,” German said looking at the full roster. “So this is your contract with me – with your faculty, your friends, your family, your community and with each other.”
After receiving their white coats, the Germans asked the students to look in the pocket. Inside was a map. She asked each student to write a short paragraph on it describing their biggest dream for the future. The cards will be collected at the end of the week. “At this medical school, I never want you to lose sight of your dreams,” the dean told UCF’s new doctors-in-training. “I keep these cards in my office and read them when I need inspiration.”
Ask students why they chose the UCF College of Medicine and achieving dreams is a common theme. Many mentioned the college’s supportive culture and the fact that it does not require them to become a certain type of doctor or specialist, but is committed to helping students achieve their dreams. Many spoke of UCF’s spirit of innovation and the opportunity to collaborate with so many entities in a medical city just minutes from one of the most visited airports in the world.
Lauren Cervantes is a first generation student born to Cuban immigrant parents. She graduated from the University of Florida with a major in Nutrition Sciences and a minor in Health Disparities. She came to UCF to fulfill her dream of caring for the underserved.
“I think access to health care is still very difficult, especially for certain communities. And I feel like as a future doctor, it’s my role to be able to really advocate for this people and to be able to give back,” says Cervantes. “Coming from a Latino background, I want to be able to give back to the community that raised me and I’m so grateful to be in this position to do that.”