The 2017 White Coat Ceremony took place Friday, August 4, officially welcoming 175 incoming students to the University of Minnesota Medical School’s class of 2021. For many, wearing the white coat for the first time is a rite of passage, marking the culmination of years of hard work and the beginning of their medical careers.

“The white coat calls out the importance of science and professionalism, as well as the vital role of the doctor-patient relationship,” says Dr. Brooks Jackson, Dean of the Medical School.

We spoke with three incoming students to discuss their feelings as they prepared to accept the white coat and begin medical school.

Sowda Ahmed

Sowda Ahmed, who graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences in May 2017, says that her positive undergraduate experience at the U contributed to her decision to join the Medical School. Ahmed, a second generation Somali-American, says the large immigrant population in Minneapolis is also a factor, due to an interest in serving underrepresented communities.

“I’m excited to reach that point in my life where I can give back to the community and be able to represent my community in the medical field,” she says, adding that the White Coat Ceremony is an important step for her and her classmates.

“There are so many people with amazing backgrounds and really cool stories to tell,” she says. “Receiving the white coat reaffirms that we all belong here.”

Michael Berken

Michael Berken was working in military intelligence in Afghanistan when he started to think about medical school as a possibility. When he finished his four years of active duty, he came back to his home in Minnesota and joined the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences.

“Seeing some of the healthcare challenges that the military faces made me interested in medical school,” he says, hoping to bring his experiences as a veteran into the clinic in order to better serve other veterans.

Berken counts receiving his white coat among his greatest accomplishments to date. “Putting on the white coat is a culmination of many things. Once we put on that coat, we become part of the community.”

Megan Crowe

Megan Crowe studied neurobiology, conducted ophthalmology research, and even obtained a Masters in Public Health before finding her way to medical school. For Crowe, getting her white coat is a chance to bring it all together and help people directly.  

“Coming from a background in very specific research, I’m really excited to learn skills that I can apply to the real world,” she says. “I think the White Coat Ceremony is a really good reminder that the work that you do here can go on to have real impacts on people’s lives.”

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