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MU’s Expanded Medical Class Receives White Coats at Ceremony

Members of the University of Missouri School of Medicine Class of 2018 took their first steps toward becoming physicians during a White Coat Ceremony Friday, Aug. 1, at the Missouri Theatre.

The annual event encourages new medical students to begin their education by upholding the highest values and standards of their profession.

The students were presented with their first white coats, the most common symbol of the medical profession for more than a century, in front of hundreds of their family members and friends.

This is the first class to have more students as part of the School of Medicine’s initiative to expand class size and create a clinical campus in Springfield, Missouri. The class of 2018 consists of 104 students, eight more than previous enrollment.

“The goal of the expansion is to improve health care and the economy in Missouri,” said Linda Headrick, MD, senior associate dean for medical education at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. “By increasing the class size and creating a clinical campus in Springfield, the School of Medicine will be able to help answer a need for more physicians in both rural and urban areas of the state.”

The class size will increase to 128 in 2017, with the completion of the Patient-Centered Care Learning Center in Columbia and the opening of the clinical campus in Springfield, a joint effort between MU and CoxHealth and Mercy health systems in Springfield.

“MU medical students now have the opportunity to complete part of their clinical education at hospitals and clinics in southwest Missouri,” said Steve Edwards, president and CEO of CoxHealth. “Medical students tend to practice where they grew up or where they went to school. By giving students more options for clinical training in other hospitals and clinics, we are increasing the odds of putting more physicians in rural areas and educating them on the diverse health needs of our state.”

The three health systems have been working together for years, and the medical school expansion is an extension of that partnership that has proven to be successful for the Springfield area.

“We have a responsibility to provide more physicians for our areas,” said David Barbe, MD, regional division president of Mercy Clinic. “It is critical to assure patients have access to adequate numbers of high quality physicians to have a medical school affiliation here. We are excited about this opportunity and that it is now underway.”

The first White Coat Ceremony was conducted in 1993 at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. The ceremony was created by Arnold Gold, MD, a pediatric neurologist, who called the white coat his profession’s “cloak of compassion.” The Arnold P. Gold Foundation estimates that a White Coat Ceremony or similar rite of passage is now held at more than 90 percent of schools of medicine and osteopathy in the United States, as well as at all four medical schools in Israel. The first White Coat Ceremony at MU occurred in 1997.