Simple coat, honored symbol



As fashion statements go, the coats aren’t anything special.

Plain vanilla. Hip length, loose fit. Roomy pockets, big enough for papers and stethoscopes.

But what these garments symbolize is extraordinary: a mix of privilege and trust, honor and responsibility.

The new medical students of the class of 2017 were asked to think about that symbolism Friday, as they put on their white coats for the very first time in this year’s White Coat Ceremony.

“This coat is a license – and this coat gives you license,” said Dr. Harry van Loveren, acting dean of the Morsani College of Medicine. “When you put this coat on, you suddenly get the right to ask the most intimate questions.


Dr. van Loveren dons his own white coat as he talks about the privileges it conveys.

“Sometimes you get a trust you haven’t earned. And an admiration you may not yet deserve,” Dr. van Loveren told the 177-member class. “So you have to take great caution when you put on this coat. People will think that you are their doctor. And you will have to live up to that.”

Student Francisco Alvarado, 23, a Clearwater native and FSU graduate, couldn’t quite believe what he was wearing.

“The blood, sweat and studying to get to this point – It feels surreal right now,” he said. “It almost feels like a costume still. But when I see my first patient, then I’ll know what it will symbolize: that they are here to see me and I’m here to provide their care.”


Student Neil Manimala, president of the MCOM Student Council, advises students to stay close to the people who matter most to them.

The focus on patient care drew Kathryn Kass, 22, a Davidson College graduate who grew up in St. Petersburg, to USF Health for medical school.

“USF is treating the entire individual, not just the disease,” she said. “I want to be able to get on the patient’s level, and to realize that this is someone’s family member.”

Taking the Oath of Commitment at the end of Friday’s ceremony was a big moment for Shea Taylor, 23, who grew up in New Port Richey and graduated from UCF.

“Next to the vows I take with my future wife one day, this may be the most important oath I ever make,” he said.


Students in the Class of 2017 take the Oath of Commitment.

Taylor said he took the advice of Dr. van Loveren and other speakers to heart.

“That really struck me hard, that patients are not going to make a distinction” between students and attending physicians, he said. “We may not be making a diagnosis, but we’re going to be there for going to be there for emotional support and developing trust.”

The bottom line, he said: with the white coat on, his new role starts now.


President Judy Genshaft and faculty leaders applaud the Class of 2017.


Parents and friends offer congratulations.


Members of the Class of 2017 don their white coats.


Dr. Alicia Monroe administers the Oath of Commitment to the Class of 2017.


With 177 students, members of the  largest class ever to enter the Morsani College of Medicine fill the atrium of the Marshall Student Center.

-Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications