Climbing that Hill for the first time: 168 medical students take the stage, begin journey at Michigan

July 25, 2022  //  FOUND IN: News, ,

Hill Auditorium holds a special place in the hearts of all U-M medical students. The hallowed hall is the place where all who earn a medical degree here spend their very first, and very last, days as a medical student.

For the 168 students who comprise the incoming Class of 2022, they got to see Hill for the first time on Sunday as they officially entered the medical school during the annual White Coat Ceremony.

The students crossed the stage with their very first white coat tucked safely on their arm. Soon, they wore them, as intended, after being officially introduced, by name and hometown, and cloaked by medical school leadership. In between, they received lots of advice, and well wishes, during a ceremony they shared with family and friends.

“I hope that now, having met your dreams of entering medical school, you will re-set and build on these dreams,” said Interim Associate Dean for Medical Student Education Steven E. Gay, M.D., M.S. “I am hopeful you will allow yourself the opportunity to explore, be inquisitive and then become inspired. We admitted you with the hope for that potential and possibility. We do not look to simply create physicians that are like us, but individuals that will take us new places, find new areas to investigate and influence, and hopefully, make things better and change the world.”

Interim Assistant Dean for Admissions Deborah R. Berman, M.D., briefly relayed the always-impressive statistics that each class brings to campus (see graphic at right). The incoming Class of 2022 was chosen from a pool of 9,385 applicants. Seventy-two hail from the state of Michigan, and they matriculated from 71 undergraduate institutions. There were audible gasps when Berman added that the cohort has 339 years of research experience, 234 years of working with underserved populations and 113 years of performance in arts/dance/music theater.

“While you are here, I encourage you — no, I beg of you — to take advantage of the wonders that are this medical school. Take a moment and look to your left, and to your right, and around you. These are your partners, friends, peers who will be part of this journey,” said Berman, who shared that she was part of the very first White Coat Ceremony ever held at Michigan. “I urge you to go out of your way to learn from and absorb from each other as well as the amazing faculty, physicians, nurses and other professionals who are now part of your lives. Don’t walk out of here four years from now saying, ‘Well, I wish I had done THIS’ or ‘If only I had gotten to know THEM.’ This is your moment. Take advantage of this opportunity.”

Executive Vice Dean for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer Debra F. Weinstein, M.D., welcomed family, friends and loved ones who are an integral part of the students’ journey, and she also thanked the scholarship donors who support their educational pursuits. Weinstein, participating in her first White Coat ceremony at U-M, proposed that students incorporate three things into their emerging “physicianhood”:

“First, appreciate the great privilege of being a physician, where patients and families bring you into their lives at their most vulnerable, often giving you their trust before you do anything to earn it. Second, make self-care a priority, recognizing that you can’t take good care of your patients unless you take good care of yourself,” she said. “Third, and last: cultivate a growth mindset… a growth mindset helps you focus on your individual learning needs, actively solicit feedback, and become comfortable seeking help. A growth mindset will help you learn more, faster, and actually perform better.”

Weinstein said that she looks forward to seeing the students during their journey and meeting them again on the same stage at Hill Auditorium to hand them their degrees.

Just prior to the official cloaking, Medical School Dean Marschall S. Runge, M.D., Ph.D., offered his own advice in the form of three lessons he has learned during his professional career, which includes his current roles as executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of Michigan Medicine: benefit from mentors; develop a plan, but don’t feel like you have to stick to it; and make career decisions based on your interests and your passion for making a contribution.

“Whatever path you choose, let it be the one that pulls you in,” Runge said. “And recognize new opportunities when the present themselves.”

Upon conclusion of the cloaking ceremony, which also saw the students receive a stethoscope and pin from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the Class of 2022 recited the White Coat Pledge together before keynote speaker Kristin M. Collier, M.D., delivered her address.

“For a medical student, outside of graduation, this is the day in your professional life that, in my opinion, means the most. It represents the line between the before and the after,” Collier said. “This morning you walked in here as a lay person on the outside of the profession, and this afternoon you will walk out of here as someone on the inside. And that is what I want to talk with you about today: How to make it on the inside; and not just how to survive, but to thrive and to flourish.”

Collier continued the advice-in-threes theme from the day’s speakers: “The first one is: you are not a machine and neither is your patient. The second one is: ask big questions, and the third one is: practice gratitude.”

She added: “This profession has a tendency to do one of two things — the suffering can either harden you and make you into a burned-out machine or you can allow the vocation to soften you. To cultivate compassion, love, justice and mercy. Let medicine do the latter of the two … You are now part of the story of medicine that is rich in both tragedy and joy, but you have the potential to shape the future of the story if you resist the temptation to see yourself and others as machine, if you ask big questions, and if you practice gratitude along the way. Welcome to the profession of medicine and Go Blue.”

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