FORT WORTH – After a year of mostly virtual learning during a pandemic, second-year medical students at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine were able to embrace loved ones during a belated White Coat Celebration.
“This means something. It means something to be able to share this moment right here, right now with our families,” said Antonio Igbokidi, a second-year medical student at the Fort Worth medical school.
The joyous and emotional celebration came to fruition inside the TCU Legends Club at Amon G. Carter Stadium, on Saturday, August 7.
The medical students had received white coats when they arrived in Summer 2020, but the formal White Coat Celebration was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
This year, the Fort Worth medical students were “re-coated” with family and friends by their sides.
“My wife is here and my parents are here and I could not have gotten through this year without them,” said Lauren Moore, a second-year medical student.
Kyle Simon, a second-year medical student, and his grandmother Rebecca Graham were among the first guests to arrive. As Simon walked along the concourse looking at the tables and all of the detailed balloon decorations, he stood quietly to take a moment to let it all soak in.
“After we’ve had that difficult year, all of this just gives more heft and more weight to the coat that I wear on my shoulders now,” Simon said.
During the celebration, the students’ family and friends met with the medical school’s faculty, staff and founding 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 special gifts. For the class of 2024, each note came from Mr. and Mrs. Ben and Barbara Loughry who donated all of the new white coats for the class. The couple had also donated the initial stethoscopes the class had previously received. In March, it was announced that an anonymous donor couple funded tuition for the 2021-22 academic year for the entire class of students.
As the crowd began to grow inside the Legends Club, the celebration began with remarks from Erin Nelson Psy.D., assistant dean of admissions and enrollment services.
“Myself and my team get the opportunity to get to know all of you from the moment you submit your application all the way to the moment you land on our campus,” said Dr. Nelson. “That’s such an honor and a privilege.”
Stuart D. Flynn, M.D., the medical school’s Founding Dean, told the class that the first year of medical school is hard on its own merit. But to see how the class responded to completing their first year of medical school, almost all virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, he expressed how proud he was of their achievements.
“I cannot thank you all enough for the class, professionalism, the can-do spirit and the immense resolve you all have displayed this past year,” Dean Flynn said.
That can-do spirit and attitude is also something that TCU Chancellor Victor J. Boschini, Jr., said he admired about the class during his remarks.
“That’s what I love the most about this medical school is that we’re creating Empathetic Scholars® who will be much more than scientists you’ll be true doctors in the true form of the word,” Chancellor Boschini said.
Waiting in the wings a few feet away from the podium was Sam Sayed, a second-year medical student, who was chosen by his classmates to speak at the celebration. With his family, friends and classmates watching Sayed delivered a pertinent message about his fellow classmates to the crowd.
“In a way, this ceremony means so much more to me than it would have this time last year,” Sayed said. “Today, we know each other’s story. We know each other’s heart. We know each other’s reason for being here. That’s simply because we struggled together and class I’m fired up to continue this journey together.”
As more than a dozen large TV screens played a 10-second video countdown to open the boxes with their white coats inside following Sayed’s speech, his fellow classmate Lauren Moore glanced at a photo of her grandparents she had placed on her table.
Moore lost her grandfather, a pathologist, and her grandmother, a nurse, in 2020 to COVID-19. Her wife, mother and father, comforted her as tears ran down her face after opening her box and putting on her white coat.
“I wanted my grandparents to be here and they couldn’t because they passed away due to COVID,” Moore said. “To have this experience and not have them be here was a little difficult but it was also a good experience to be with my classmates and to really celebrate the end of a difficult year.”
While Moore was comforted by her family and classmates, a few feet away there were more tears of joy flowing down the face of Linda Bailey as she put the white coat over her son, Antonio Igbokidi’s shoulders.
“I’m super proud, just super proud,” Bailey said. “It was a proud moment. It was like we made it.”
Igbokidi smiled and adjusted his coat to take pictures with mom, sister and fiancé.
“It kind of felt like this warm nostalgic moment where we get to share this with our family our friends,” said Igbokidi. “It was good for her to put that white coat on me and for us to celebrate this moment together.”
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.