A commitment to humanity in medicine [VIDEO]

View Photo Gallery for 2012 Morsani College of Medicine White Coat Ceremony


Never before had 1,000 chairs been squeezed into a room to accommodate all who came to celebrate the entry of the University of South Florida’s incoming medical students  into the profession of medicine.

The 164 students who took center stage at the front of the Marshall Student Center ballroom Friday have diverse backgrounds and aspirations.  But Friday, the students shared a pivotal experience as they gathered with faculty, staff, parents and other loved ones for their first formal celebration as the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Class of 2016.  Speaker Dr. H. James Brownlee called the White Coat Ceremony one of many moments on their journey to becoming physicians “that takes your breath away.”

Following a two-week intensive orientation course “Doctoring,” the students were presented with their first white coats – a rite of passage symbolizing the humanism and professionalism of a career in medicine.  They are members of the largest MD class in USF’s 41 year history.

White Coat Ceremony 2012, MCOM Class of 2016, medical students

First-year USF medical student Kristian Johnson is present with her new white coat by a physician-faculty member.

 Dr. Stephen Klasko, CEO of USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, said the white coat is both an incredible privilege and a tremendous responsibility.

“As soon as I take off my jacket and put on this white coat, people look at me differently,” Dr. Klasko said. “They trust me. They look up to me.  They meet me and are ready to confide their deepest secrets… because they look at this profession as that of healer.”

The growth in USF’s incoming medical students is prompted by the success of the SELECT MD program, USF Health’s physician leadership program in partnership with Lehigh Valley Health Network, which seeks students with high emotional intelligence not just impressive science GPAs and MCAT scores. The number of SELECT students joining the college, 44, was more than double that of last year’s inaugural group of 19. 

White Coat Ceremony 2012, Class of 2016, medical students, Stephen Klasko

Dr. Stephen Klasko, dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine

 With innovative programs like SELECT, the Scholarly Concentrations and the new Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, USF is redefining how medical students are educated, Dr. Klasko said.  “We expect (our students) to become part of shaping change – of leading a healthcare transformation.”  

USF President Judy Genshaft offered congratulations, and said there are no limits to what the new students can achieve. They have selected a medical school and university that value superb empathetic clinical care and the advancement of discoveries that will make life better for individuals and communities, she said.

“This university makes a commitment to educate, to empower and to enlighten you to become the most competent and caring physicians ever,” Genshaft said. “Together, we have real opportunities to make a difference in curing diseases and saving lives.”

White Coat Ceremony 2012, MCOM Class of 2012, medical students

USF President Judy Genshaft

Alicia Billington, president of the Morsani College of Medicine Student Council, spoke about humanism in medicine from a student’s perspective.

“Please don’t forget to smile and touch your patients. Don’t for forget to be human,” Billington said. “As you forge ahead, remember that you are a Morsani College of Medicine student chosen for the very qualities of humanity that should be a part of medicine.”

Coat Ceremony 2012, MCOM Class of 2016, medical students, Alicia Billington

Alicia Billington, president of the Morsani College of Medicine Student Council

Dr. Brownlee, professor of medicine and 2012 recipient of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award, said one way the Morsani College of Medicine nurtures humanism is by encouraging volunteerism through such opportunities like the BRIDGE Clinic and Project World Health.

He encouraged students to take time out of their hectic schedules to really listen to patients, colleagues and loved ones. 

Being attentive to others can be as healing as the most powerful treatment, he said. “Your life as a medical student, resident and physician will include encounters with many people, especially your families, that will take your breath away. Try not to miss it.”

White Coat Ceremony 2012, MCOM Class of 2016, medical students. Dr. H. James Brownlee

Dr. H. James Brownlee, professor of family medicine and recipient of 2012 Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award

Before reciting an oath of commitment to medicine, the students lined up in front of faculty members who helped them into their new coats.  The ballroom could hardly contain the thunderous applause and cheers once the final student returned to his chair and all the students stood together as a class to recite their oath of commitment to medicine.

The growth of the student community bodes well for the future of the Morsani College of Medicine, said Dr. Alicia Monroe, the college’s vice dean of educational affairs..

“It symbolizes we’re on the move, and that we attract some of the best and brightest students in Florida and are beginning to attract them from across the nation,” Dr. Monroe said after the ceremony.

“It is an honor and a privilege, not only to attract all these students, but to be able to train and prepare them to become outstanding physicians. We want them to be physicians who are skilled, knowledgeable and technically competent, but also compassionate and ethical, with a commitment to service.”

White Coat Ceremony 2012, MCOM Class of 2016, medical students, Alicia Monroe

Dr. Alicia Monroe, vice dean of educational affairs for the Morsani College of Medicine

 Among the first-year students celebrating with family following this year’s White Coat Ceremony was Josiah Hill, 29, a former U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant and one of five Tillman Military Scholars at USF. 

“I’m so excited about being here,” said Hill, who participated in medial missions in areas of political unrest or natural disaster while in the military. After his military service, he worked as an EMT in an inner city emergency room in Denver, CO.

“To really be a healer is what I’m looking forward to most,” Hill said, when asked what the white coat means to him. “I was struck by USF’s holistic approach to medicine – the emphasis on compassionate care of individuals as human beings.”

White Coat Ceremony 2012, MCOM Class of 2016, medical students, Josiah Hill

Josiah Hill, a member of the Morsani College of Medicine Class of 2016, is one of five Tillman Military Scholars at USF.


  • 164 students – 120 CORE and 44 in the SELECT MD program
  • 57 percent men and 43 percent women
  •  Total GPA – 3.70         MCAT: 30.7
  • 37 percent of the class represents students from ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds, including students underrepresented in medicine (URM)

Source:  USF College of Medicine Admissions Office

2012 White Coat Ceremony, Morsani College of Medicine, medical students

The USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Class of 2016, the largest medical student class ever, was welcomed with a White Coat Ceremony emphasizing humanism and professionalism.

White Coat Ceremony 2012, MCOM Class of 2016, medical students

The new medical students, joined by faculty, staff and family, packed the Marshall Student Center’s lobby for a reception following the White Coat Ceremony.

Photos by Eric Younghans, and video by Dani Barta, USF Health Communications