Students from the University of Missouri School of Medicine’s class of 2026 took their first steps toward becoming physicians during the White Coat Ceremony this afternoon in Mizzou Arena. The 128 students were selected from more than 3,000 applicants.
“The white coat signifies a covenant to knowledge, skills, mutual respect and humanity,” said Richard J. Barohn, MD, the Hugh E. and Sarah D. Stephenson Dean of the MU School of Medicine and executive vice chancellor for health affairs. “It’s a symbol that is universally recognized and carries with it a commitment to patient-centered care and clinical excellence.”
The School of Medicine continues to become more diverse. A goal of the medical school and others across the nation is to increase the enrollment of individuals who belong to racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession compared to the general population. Of the students in the MU class of 2026, 13% self-identified as underrepresented in medicine. Additionally, 34% of students self-identified as an ethnic minority within the U.S.
Additionally, 26% of students are from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, 17% are from rural areas and 86% are from Missouri.
“As a land-grant institution, the University of Missouri takes seriously its responsibility to train Missourians and to prepare physicians to care for Missourians,” Barohn said. “We’re proud to be the state’s leading educator of physicians who practice in our state.”
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% 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.
Did you know?
The length of a white coat indicates a person’s level of medical training. Medical students are presented with a short white coat during their White Coat Ceremony that distinguishes them as students. Physicians receive a long white coat when they begin residency.