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July 3, 2012 - Class of 2014 Medical Students Receive White Coats at Annual White Coat Ceremony
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The University of South Alabama College of Medicine held its annual White Coat Ceremony for the Class of 2014 at the USA Mitchell Center on June 23, 2012.

During the ceremony, rising third-year medical students were cloaked with their first white coats, the traditional dress of physicians for more than 100 years.

Sarah Bragg, a USA medical student who received her white coat at the ceremony, said the event marked the transition from the years of classroom learning to the years of hands-on learning.

“It marks the beginning of what most of us came to medical school to do – practice medicine,” Bragg said. “We have earned the privilege to wear these coats with hours of reading, dissecting, and memorizing. This is our ticket to ‘pass go’ and head on to the next step of our journey.”

The students will begin their clinical rotations and start interacting with patients on July 1.

“It is exciting and satisfying to have finished the first two years of medical school and to be getting ready to do what I have been thinking about and working toward for years,” said USA medical student Cara Stalzer, who is following her grandfather’s footsteps in her pursuit of medicine. “The ceremony signifies the most important beginning in my life so far and brings with it a great sense of anticipation for the future.”

For USA medical student Drew Meriwether, the ceremony is also a time to recognize family and friends for their support. “None of us could have gotten here alone,” he said. “Without my family, I wouldn’t be even close to reaching this point.”

Meriwether is not the first in his family to attend medical school. His cousin John Meriwether graduated from the USA College of Medicine in 2011. “He helped me build a good support system here,” Meriwether said.

Like many of her classmates, what brought Bragg to the medical field was her love of learning new things and her desire to interact with people. “My mother, Dottie, is a nurse, and I saw that in her work she had the opportunity to really affect people and make a difference in their day, their week, or even their lives,” Bragg said. “At that point, I knew that the field of medicine was for me.”

Bragg said she is thankful for getting insight into the medical field beginning at a young age and for the continuous encouragement from her parents. “Throughout my life, they taught me that I could achieve anything I really put my mind to,” she said. When her medical school acceptance letter came in the mail at 22 years old, Bragg “finally realized they were right.”

For students, the White Coat Ceremony also served as a reminder of the importance and responsibility they take by dedicating themselves to the care of patients.

“I went into medicine because, in addition to my love of learning, I also love talking to people about their lives and helping them fix or solve whatever is plaguing them,” Bragg said. “While the first two years of basic science are very important to lay down the knowledge required to practice medicine, the clinical aspect of medicine is what brought me to medical school.”

Dr. Johnson Haynes, professor of internal medicine and assistant dean for diversity and cultural competence at the USA College of Medicine, was the keynote speaker at the ceremony. During the ceremony, the students took the Medical Student Oath, a promise to uphold the human aspects of medicine, such as sensitivity, compassion and respect for patients.

To view all photos from the event, click here.

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