The 2017 White Coat Ceremony

On a breezy Sunday in August, the incoming students of the Class of 2021 walked through Rockefeller Chapel, past their family and friends who were in attendance, to receive their first white coats. These 90 students come from 49 different undergraduate institutions and 25 states, and 20 were born in countries other than the United States, yet they are now united in a common purpose in their journey to become physicians.

Friends and family gather in Rockefeller Chapel

Holly Humphrey, MD’83, Dean for Medical Education, welcomed everyone and harkened back to the first ever white coat ceremony, which was started by Pritzker decades ago. She also thanked the sponsors of the event, among them the Medical and Biological Alumni Association and the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.

Kenneth Polonsky, MD, Dean of the Division of the Biological Sciences and the Pritzker School of Medicine, welcomed the incoming students to campus and spoke of the unique opportunities awaiting them here. From the new Duchossois Family Institute to the future Obama Presidential Library, the resources available to Pritzker students are myriad. This is a time to “find out what you are interested in, what you are good at, and how you can make a difference,” he said.

The two White Coat Ceremony Committee Co-Chairs, Ayesha Dholakia and Julia Naman, MS2s, introduced keynote speaker Selwyn O. Rogers, Jr., MD, MPH, the Founding Director of the University of Chicago Medicine Trauma Center. “Each of us has chosen a noble profession,” he said, speaking of medicine as a path where love of science merges with service to the community. Acknowledging that the incoming students will spend the next four years learning about the science of medicine, he aimed to speak to “the heart of medicine,” and provided three quotations as the framework:

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized.” –Daniel Burnham

“This above all: to thine own self be true…” –Shakespeare, Hamlet

With these words, Dr. Rogers urged students to cultivate compassion, set ambitious goals, and ultimately, never forget to take care of themselves on their road to becoming a doctor. “I will be honored to call you my colleagues in four years,” he ended.

With that, the Class of 2021 rose to recite the Hippocratic Oath, led by Halina Brukner, MD, and James Woodruff, MD, then exited Rockefeller with wide smiles, white coats fluttering behind them.