This week, members of the University of Colorado Medical School 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, unfair 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 assembled class of 2026. “Understanding the social and personal influences on an individual’s health has never been more critical. Despite technological advances in diagnosis and treatment, the power of empathy has never been greater.
It was not a warning but a call for hope and a reaffirmation of determination and courage that brought the new class of aspiring doctors to the Friday morning white coat ceremony, an annual tradition that welcomes new classes of medical students to the profession and family of medicine.
Faculty and staff from the UC School of Medicine, along with family and friends of the students, attended Friday’s white coat ceremony.
“Some have criticized the glorification of the white coat as a sign of elitism, but that’s certainly not our intention,” Dwinnell said. “Our goal is to send the message that in your career, you must realize that a truly competent physician is one who balances excellence in science and clinical skill with compassionate patient care for all individuals in our communities. There is no doubt in my mind that the ceremony serves to alert students to the importance of becoming humanistic and caring physicians.
Listen and learn from patients
The class of 2026 represents 28 U.S. states and includes 22 students born outside of the United States. Of the total class size, 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 class as a strength because “the hard work ahead is really about closing the gaps that separate many of us from our neighbors,” said Dean Shanta Zimmer, MD. senior associate for education and associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the UC 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. It is a gift that medicine gives us and that the white coat offers you in a figurative sense. The gift of closeness and trust from another human being during some of their most difficult times.”
As they embark on what will be years of medical education and training, the class of 2026 were reminded that medicine is both an art and a science, balancing the rigors of research and clearer answers with nuance and humanity found. at the bedside and in the examination rooms.
“You will learn about your patients – about their children, their current and past occupations, their love of puzzles, chess, knitting and hiking, their aversion to cheese, as well as blood tests and pills. potassium and the dreaded side effects of their cancer therapies,” said Amira del Pino-Jones, MD, assistant dean of student affairs at CU School of Medicine. “You will listen and learn from their families — how things were when they were in good health and the difficulties they can now face in the face of illness.”
Del Pino-Jones emphasized that as physicians, they will learn about their patients’ challenges in navigating the health care system and the biases 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. “With each encounter with a patient, you will become part of their story and they will become part of yours. You will learn about love, joy, grief, humility and humanity, and these are the 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 Gold Humanism Honor Society inductees, members of CU’s medical class of 2023 who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to humanistic patient care, Steven said. Lowenstein, MD, MPH, Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Gold Advisor to the Humanism Honor Society Chapter.
“Thank you for all those times you put your own well-being on hold, just a moment longer, so you could 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 UC Medical School alumnus.
Members of the Class of 2026 were also recognized at the ceremony when they received their white coats and a stethoscope donated by a CU School of Medicine alumnus. In a declaration of honor written by members of the class, they pledged “to embody the principles of curiosity, commitment and leadership” as they strive to conduct themselves with honor, humor, humility and kindness.
“Students, now is an exciting time to get into medicine,” Zimmer said. “Not only is the explosion of science, technology, innovation and discovery something we are thrilled to embrace with you and see you move forward, but it is also a when society needs the leadership of citizens like us – like you – who are compassionate, thoughtful, and called to focus on something outside of our own interests.”