University of South Florida

Class of 2026 medical students receive first white coats

The USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony.

Friends and families filled the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa to officially welcome the 177 newest USF Health Morsani College of Medicine (MCOM) students during the Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony.

This cohort of medical students represent MCOM’s most academically competitive and one of the most diverse cohorts in college history.  The class had an average MCAT score that ranked in the 95th percentile* nationally, a record high 3.91 average GPA*, and 18% of students come from groups that have traditionally been considered underrepresented minorities.

Special guests for the momentous occasion included:

  • Rhea Law, University of South Florida system president
  • John Couris, Tampa General Hospital president and chief executive officer
  • Frank Morsani, namesake and long-standing supporters to MCOM, USF Health, and the University of South Florida

Charles J. Lockwood, MD, MHCM, USF Health executive vice president and Morsani College of Medicine dean.

Kicking off the ceremony was Charles J. Lockwood, MD, MHCM, USF Health executive vice president and MCOM dean.  He spoke to students about what it means to be a physician and remembering to always hold on to your motivation to be a doctor.

“The physician’s life is a noble one, but it is not an easy one.  There will be times when you’re overwhelmed, frustrated, and doubt your abilities. They will span your career.  But, the passion and perseverance, grit and determination that got you here will see you though.  So, keep your eyes on the higher purpose.” said Dr. Lockwood. “Patient care is at the center of all we do.  You have chosen a career in medicine because of your desire to help people and you must never lose sight of that motivation.”

Elham Yousef, MD, Tampa General Hospital associate chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs.

Following Lockwood was Elham Yousef, MD, TGH associate chief medical officer, vice president of medical affairs, and nationally recognized expert in patient safety.  Her remarks focused on the high expectations of wearing the white coat.

“The expectations of the white coat are enormous as you are privileged to care for other humans during the most difficult and vulnerable times of their lives and their families’ lives.  The privilege comes with the great responsibility of professionalism, ethics, and integrity.  In return, you will get the deepest and greatest satisfaction of your lives,” said Dr. Yousef. “I will take great pride in seeing you in the hallways of Tampa General Hospital.  Your journey will continue, and you will continue to accomplish much more in the future as you serve in the role as physician and become true difference-making doctors.

David Dunning, executive director of the James A Haley Veteran’s Hospital and Clinics in Tampa.

David Dunning, executive director of the James A Haley Veteran’s Hospital and Clinics in Tampa, took the stage after Yousef.  The JAH is currently celebrating their 50th anniversary and long-standing partnership with USF Health.  Dunning emphasized to the students that the VA is available to help them throughout their medical school journey.

“The journey you are undertaking is not one you are doing alone.  There are 5,600 of the most dedicated health care professionals in the world at the Tampa VA and more at our partner facilities, and we stand ready to support you every step of the way,” said Dunning.  “Remember, the joy is in the journey, not the destination.”

Jody Wellcome, MCOM fourth-year medical student.

The class also heard from fourth-year medical student, Jody Wellcome.  She gave advice to the students that she has accumulated over her four years of medical school.

“You are all incredibly brilliant with so much to offer.  But not one of you nor your journeys are the same.  While there are plenty of people and resources at your disposal, remember that medicine is not a ‘one size fits all’, said Jody Wellcome.  “You have a whole community behind you ready to lend a helping hand.  Be mindful of one another, take care of each other, and celebrate each other.”

Bri Anne McKeon, MD, MCOM Obstetrics and Gynecology assistant professor.

Last to speak was Bri Anne McKeon, MD, MCOM Obstetrics and Gynecology assistant professor.  She spoke to the students about the meaning of the white coat and the responsibility that comes with it.

“Today’s white coat ceremony welcomes you into your medical training.  You’ve worked hard to get here.  If you do it right, you will continue to work hard to fill the responsibility and privilege given to you,” said Dr. McKeon.  “You are now part of a community of medical students, residents, and attendings who have come before you and will walk with you as you are on this journey.”

Her words were the perfect transition to the highlight of the ceremony.  Small groups of students were called center stage for preceptors, teachers and mentors put their first white coat on their shoulders, officially making them part of the USF Health family.  To wrap up the ceremony, Deborah DeWaay, MD, FACP, MCOM associate dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, led the students in the Oath of Commitment.

Groups of student received their first white coats in front of friends and family.

Fun facts about the class of 2026:

177 students – 121 CORE, 56 SELECT

54% Female, 46% Male

18% Under-represented minorities

Undergraduate Education:  58% Out of State, 42% In State

3.91 average GPA*

518 median MCAT score (95th percentile nationally)*

Primary Undergraduate Majors:  50 – Biology, 23 – Biomedical Science, 13 – Biochemistry and Neuroscience (tied)

More photos from the event:


*This story was updated with more current info that includes MCAT scores, national percentile ranking, and GPAs.

Story and photos by Freddie Coleman, USF Health Communications and Marketing

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