Gallery+Story: 100 Future Doctors Receive White Coats

In front of family and friends, the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine (PLFSOM) class of 2022 received their first white coats as part of the time-honored White Coat Ceremony.

As a symbol of their entrance into the noble profession of doctoring, the 100 future doctors comprising the class of 2022 were cloaked by Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A., president of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) and dean of the PLFSOM, in the presence of family and friends.

The White Coat Ceremony is a traditional rite of passage for entering medical students. Started in 1993 by Arnold P. Gold and his foundation, the ceremony is designed to remind students of the humanism inherent in their chosen field. In addition to being cloaked for the first time, the 100 future physicians recited an oath they wrote together.

Since its inception at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, the white coat tradition has expanded to 97 percent of medical schools throughout the U.S. and Canada.

At other medical schools, students may transition from the classroom to clinical care much later in their academic careers. But the PLFSOM is unique—in their very first year of studies, students serve in clinics and hospitals, learning the importance of compassionate patient care. The school is also noted for its Spanish-language requirement, which helps prepare physicians for careers in El Paso and other underserved communities.

For native El Pasoan Valeria Varela, receiving the white coat made her dream of becoming a doctor that much more tangible.

“I’m excited,” Varela said of receiving the white coat. “I feel like I’m finally going to be immersed into the medicine part of it, compared to the prerequisites.”

Varela also looks forward to interacting with patients as part of her education.

Part of what made this year’s ceremony special is that the coats were all funded by white coat sponsors.

Before the start of the ceremony, Varela reached into her coat pocket and found a card from the donor who sponsored her coat. On the back of it was a message that made her smile and chuckle.

Varela’s was among 100 inspirational messages from donors in support of the first-year students’ journeys.

“Never forget that your goal is to serve. When you do good work, good compensation will follow. No need to make money your goal. We are proud of your achievement and will always support you,” one read. Another, said, “Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy life!”

The ceremony took place On Saturday, July 28 at the Plaza Theatre in Downtown El Paso.

All photos by Tommie Morelos / Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.  To view more photos from the ceremony, click here.