Students from the University of Missouri School of Medicine class of 2024 took their first steps toward becoming physicians during a White Coat Ceremony this afternoon at Jesse Hall on the University of Missouri campus. The class of 128 students was selected from more than 3,000 applicants. Students and presenters wore face masks and socially distanced in the large auditorium while friends, faculty and family joined the celebration via livestream.
“The white coat signifies an expectation of medical knowledge and skills, mutual respect and humanity,” said Steven Zweig, MD, dean of the MU School of Medicine. “Recently it has also come to symbolize the selfless commitment of health care workers during the current viral pandemic and making a commitment to fighting racism in medicine.”
The School of Medicine continues to become more diverse. The class of 2024 consists of 128 students. Of this class, 39% of students self-identified as an ethnic minority. This includes students who are Asian, Black, Latino, American Indian or Pacific Islander.
A goal of medical schools across the nation is to increase enrollment of traditionally underrepresented students, and 17% of students in the MU class of 2024 self-identified as underrepresented minorities. Additionally, 27% of students are from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, 20% are from rural areas and 85% are from Missouri.
At the ceremony, the students received their first white coats, the most common symbol of the medical profession for more than a century. The annual event encourages new medical students to begin their education by upholding the highest values and standards of their profession.
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.