University of South Florida

White coats a symbol of compassion, commitment

Focusing on patients as people as well as the data of their lab tests and medical histories is the foundation of true patient care.

This advice, shared with USF Health’s newest medical students and their families at this year’s White Coat Ceremony, was offered by Charles J. Lockwood, MD, MHCM, executive vice president of USF Health and dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

“Patient care is not simply the endpoint of genetic sequences, lab tests or complex diagnostic and treatment algorithms,” Dr. Lockwood said. “It is also an appreciation that your patients are living, breathing people with hopes and dreams, fears, and anxieties, all of which are magnified when they are sick.”

The 182 students representing the Morsani College of Medicine Class of 2027 received their first white coats during the White Coat Ceremony held Sept. 5 at the Tampa Convention Center.  This cohort of students represents another academically strong class and the most diverse yet, with a record 23% of students identified as traditionally underrepresented in medicine, including 15% who are Black, one of the highest percentages among medical schools not affiliated with a historically Black college or university.

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


















Dr. Lockwood also thanked the students’ family and friends for their support of the students as well as donors to the event, who contributed more than $175,000 toward the Class of 2027 scholarship fund.  He called on the students to recognize that part of donning their white coats is making a commitment to pursuing a career of life-long learning.

“The physician’s life is a noble one,” Dr. Lockwood said. “But it’s not an easy one.  There will be times when you’re overwhelmed, when you’re frustrated, when you doubt your abilities. These challenges will never abate.  They will span your career.  But the passion and perseverance, grit, and determination that got you here today will see you through.  So keep your eyes on the higher purpose you serve.”

Peter Chang, MD, vice president of Healthcare Design for Tampa General Hospital


















Peter Chang, MD, is vice president of Healthcare Design at Tampa General Hospital, MCOM’s primary teaching hospital and clinical partner as well as the primary sponsor of the White Coat Ceremony.  Dr. Chang, an MCOM Class of 2008 graduate, told the new students how he felt when he got his white coat and offered them some encouraging words.

“Today marks a momentous occasion in the beginning of your career as a physician, a day you will remember for the rest of your life — as I did mine. It’s hard to believe that I would be on this stage as a USF medical student 20 years ago,” said Dr. Chang. “I can’t wait to hear about the amazing future you guys will hold and the amazing things you will achieve.”

Ashley Mason, Morsani College of Medicine Class of 2024.
















Ashley Mason, a Class of 2024 MCOM student, also spoke.

“This white coat represents a chance to meet people in their most vulnerable moments in life and take time to offer compassion and empathy,” she said. “Importantly, this compassion and empathy occurs not just when in clinic, but with every interaction you have during your lifelong career in medicine.”

Students selected Jennifer Costa, MD, assistant professor of Family Medicine, for the second consecutive year as the faculty member they wanted to address the class. Dr. Costa explained the importance of giving back to their communities throughout their medical careers.

“Your white coat is your portal to humanity and yet also it is a call to action.  We ask that while you’re wearing it, you bear witness to the human experience,” Dr. Costa said. “We chose you to be here because you have proven to be the type of person that does not back down when faced with adversity.  We ask that with your white coat on, you be the type of person who fights for those who can’t fight for themselves.”














Following Dr. Costa’s remarks, students came up in groups to have their first white coats placed on their shoulders by the physician educators who will help guide them during medical school.

Bryan Bognar, MD, MPH, FACP, vice dean of Educational Affairs and chair of the MCOM Department of Medical Education, led the students as they recited the Oath of Commitment, dedicating themselves to a career of life-long learning, community service and patient care.

The memorable evening ended with families and friends congratulating the newest medical students and commemorating the occasion with hugs, happy tears and pictures with the students wearing their new white coats.

Class Profile:

182 Students: 126 Core, 56 SELECT

Median GPA: 3.91

Median MCAT: 518

52% Male, 48% Female

23% Under-represented in medicine

Residency: 47% Florida, 53% Out of State

More photos from the event:

Story by Freddie Coleman.  Photos by Ryan Rossy and Freddie Coleman





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