TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine
Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker along with council members, community supporters, medical school donors, faculty and staff welcomed the class of 2025 at a White Coat Celebration inside the TCU Legends Club at Amon G. Carter Stadium, on Saturday August 7.
Mayor Parker said she was impressed with the students and how the medical school continues to support the Fort Worth community through its mission of training Empathetic Scholars®.
“This school is truly reflective of what we want to become,” Mayor Parker said. “You are training the next generation of Empathetic Scholars® and doctors that will provide a wide range of responsibilities and health care for our community. It’s truly tremendous the students that are reflective of this class. They are rock stars all in their own right.”
As Christopher Corona, a first-year medical student, and his wife Cristina looked around the exquisitely decorated concourse inside the Legends Club, they couldn’t help but smile.
“We’ve been working toward this as a family for 10-plus years,” Christopher Corona said. “It just brings out an ocean of emotions out for her and myself.”
The traditional White Coat Ceremony, known as a rite of passage for medical students, was started in 1993 at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. The congratulatory event is currently practiced by 99 percent of medical schools across the United States accredited by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
At the unconventional Fort Worth medical school, the event is thoughtfully presented as an intimate celebration for medical students and their loved ones.
First-year medical school student Alejandra Gutierrez beamed with pride as she showed her family around.
“With my dad being from Colombia and my mom being from the Virgin Islands, I have a blended family and I’m like the representation of the American dream,” said Gutierrez, who is a first-generation college student and the first medical student in her family.
During the celebration, the students’ family and friends met faculty, staff, community members and donors. Each student’s white coat came with a special message inside the pocket with a note from the donor who sponsored their coat, along with other gifts.
As the crowd began to grow inside the Legends Club, the celebration began with remarks from Erin Nelson Psy.D., the assistant dean of admissions and enrollment services.
“What an exciting day for our school of medicine,” Dr. Nelson said. “It was just a few weeks ago we got to see you all in person for the first time during Welcome Week.”
Stuart D. Flynn, M.D., founding dean of the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine, spoke about an introductory conversation he had with the class of 2025. Dean Flynn said that he asked them to come up with one word that they would like their patients to use to describe them 10 to 20 years from now.
“Compassionate, caring, empathetic, kind and trustworthy,” Dean Flynn said. “Not only do I love how they see their future but I think the hands of medicine are in good shape with these young people.”
TCU Chancellor Victor J. Boschini, Jr., offered words of encouragement to the new class of medical students.
“You’re going to become physicians and you’re going to help others,” Chancellor Boschini said. “That’s really a privilege and a gift.”
Quietly holding his 4-year-old son a few feet away from the podium, Christopher got a quick pep talk from Cristina before giving his speech.
“I told him he could do it,” Cristina said. “He practiced it and I was his audience at home, but here it hit differently. I had to fight back tears. I’m going to remember today forever.”
Christopher was chosen by his classmates to speak at the celebration. He told the crowd how diverse and how wide-ranging in thought and skills his classmates are.
“We’re first-generation college graduates. We’re musicians, artist and dancers,” Christopher said. “We’re Olympic athletes as well as collegiate athletes. We’re parents, we’re spouses, we represent the LGBTQ+ community, but we’re also members of the military, both members and reserves.”
More than a dozen large TV screens played a 10-second video countdown to open the white boxes with white coats inside. Gutierrez’s mother, Vrranica Dolphin, could barely contain her excitement as she bounced in her seat to the countdown music.
Once Gutierrez opened the box, Dolphin rushed over with a huge smile to put the white coat on her daughter.
“I felt so blessed and honored to be able to place the white coat on that establishes a future for my daughter,” Dolphin said. “I felt empowered as a mom.”
In the mist of the cheers and loud celebrations, James Okpamen, a first-year medical student, whose family is from Nigeria, had a happy and quiet spiritual moment with his father Osas Michael Okapmen.
“I reminded him of the sacrifice and the effort in the pursuit of this journey,” Osas said. “I let him know that this is not the end, it is only the beginning.”
James bowed his head and nodded, heeding his father’s advice before giving him a hug and posing for pictures.
“My dad has consistently been there and (has been) a model of hard work by just being faithful and a leader,” James said. “My dad is just a major support system and I’m glad that he’s here today to witness this moment.”
About the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine
The TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine, Fort Worth’s M.D. school, opened with a class of 60 students in July 2019. TCU and UNTHSC joined together in July 2015 to form this new allopathic medical school. The School of Medicine’s focus on communication, a first-of-its-kind curriculum and the development of Empathetic Scholars® uniquely positions the organization to radically transform medical education, improving care for future generations. To make this new school possible, the greater North Texas community stepped up to help, providing philanthropic support. The school’s current Founding Donors include Alcon, Amon G. Carter Foundation, Anita and Kelly Cox, Baylor Scott & White, The Burnett Foundation, Cook Children’s, Texas Health Resources, Mr. H. Paul Dorman, Mr. Arnold and Mrs. Harriette Gachman, Dr. John and Mrs. Priscilla Geesbreght, Sid W. Richardson Foundation, Rebecca and Jon Brumley, The Morris Foundation, Martha Sue Parr Trust, Tartaglino Richards Family Foundation, Thomas M., Helen McKee, & John P. Ryan Foundation, as well as three Anonymous donors.