Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Class of 2024 began medical school in 2020, just four months after the COVID-19 pandemic began. The pandemic has forced the cancellation of all in-person teachings and events, including the traditional White Coat Ceremony usually held after freshman orientation. Instead, students completed the majority of coursework virtually.
The Medical School administration wanted to give the group of more than 300 people a chance to be together for the first time since orientation nearly two years ago and mark the transition to the clinical years of the medicine School. The solution was the inaugural ceremony of the Wayne State University School of Medicine Clinicians Ceremonyheld March 18 from 4-6 p.m. at the MotorCity Soundboard Auditorium in Detroit.
“I beg to say that you have endured more than any other class in the history of the School of Medicine,” Associate Dean of Student Affairs Margit Chadwell, MD ’94, told the crowd.
Class of 2024 student Connor Cook was among the speakers at the event. He acknowledged the hardships and triumphs his classmates experienced as they started medical school amid an unprecedented pandemic. He noted less than ideal working conditions, long quarantines and the loss of loved ones to the virus. Then he lit a white candle, symbolizing the light his classmates were determined to bring in the darkness of the pandemic.
“When the world shut down, we had the honor of standing up,” Cook said.
The ceremony celebrated the class of 2024 students before they embark on a crucial step in their medical education journey: the start of basic clinical rotations in hospitals and clinics.
“It’s really nice to see everyone and come together and move on to the next chapter,” said Riley Reed, a student in the class of 2024.
During rotations, students engage in direct patient care alongside physicians, residents, and other members of the healthcare team to learn and gain experience in primary care and specialties medical. The ceremony was coordinated with the school’s Gold Humanism Honors Society chapter, highlighting the challenges and imperatives of providing compassionate, collaborative, and excellent care to all patients.
“It’s exciting to bring everything we’ve learned from the computer screen to the hospital,” said Lewis Graham, who attended the event with his twin brother and classmate Jerry Graham.
The siblings agreed that having each other has made the past two years of online learning a manageable challenge.
“It helps build strong coping skills,” Jerry Graham said. “It’s easy to be empathetic and understanding.”
Practicum directors presented their incoming students with a symbolic gift of a WSU School of Medicine-branded stethoscope, reinforcing the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship through the doctor’s connection to the patient’s heartbeat. They also received pins to wear on their white coats as a reminder of their duty to their patients and their profession. The pins were presented to the students by various members of the Wayne State leadership who took turns as pin givers, including WSU President Mr. Roy Wilson and the School’s Acting Dean of Medicine Wael Sakr, MD.
The ceremony concluded with Associate Dean of Clinical Education, Christopher Steffes, MD, leading the Commitment to Ethics and Professionalism class: Wayne Warrior MD Physicians-in Training Principles of Professional Identity. The pledge was drafted by a committee of faculty from the School of Medicine for medical students.