On Becoming a Physician: New Einstein Students Receive White Coats and Stethoscopes

August 19, 2019—(BRONX, NY)—Members of Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s class of 2023 received monogrammed white coats and stethoscopes last week in a ceremony marked with pride and reminders of responsibility as they embark on their lifelong journey of medical education.

Joshua Nosanchuk, M.D.

Joshua Nosanchuk, M.D.

The “On Becoming a Physician” ceremony, part of the 183 students’ week-long orientation to Einstein, featured remarks from Einstein medical leaders, alumni, and faculty who pledged support for the new students and urged them to develop their professionalism, empathy, and humanity in service to their future patients. The white coats and stethoscopes were donated to the students by Einstein alumni.

“Welcome to a lifelong, wondrous journey as you transform into masterful physicians,” said Joshua Nosanchuk, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education and professor of medicine and of microbiology & immunology. He advised the students to reflect on their new roles as clinicians, investigators, and educators. “Always remember to be humble. You will have amazing skills and vast knowledge, but you will always, always learn more—especially from your patients.”

A Diverse Class

Martin Cohen, M.D., emeritus professor of medicine, and Felise Milan, M.D., director, clinical skills center
Martin Cohen, M.D., emeritus professor of medicine, and Felise Milan, M.D., director, clinical skills center

More than 8,000 people applied to Einstein, and faculty interviewed nearly 1,000 applicants. The class of 2023 includes 11 students who participated as undergraduates in one of several Einstein pipeline programs designed to provide a pathway to health and medical careers for underrepresented minorities.

Students come from 19 states, with nearly half of them from New York. Nearly one-fifth of the students were born outside the United States. In addition:

  • A quarter of the students are musicians, vocalists, and/or dancers
  • The age range of students is from 21 to 35, with the average age of 23
  • Fifteen students plan to earn both an M.D. and a Ph.D.
  • Students have volunteered with dozens of nonprofit groups that address numerous issues, including: homelessness, healthcare, education, violence prevention, and animal health
  • Together, class members speak 29 languages other than English; four students speak five or more languages
  • Twenty-two students are certified EMTs.

“I chose Einstein because of how much they value diversity and inclusion here,” said Destiney Kirby, 22, who described herself as a first-generation student from a low-income, multiracial family. Ms. Kirby, whose junior high school friends traveled from Washington, D.C., and Rhode Island to celebrate with her, said she hopes to become a community activist who advocates for better access to health care for people of color, and “pave the way for other students who are similar to me.”

Stethoscopes, White Coats, and an Oath

Speakers at the "On Becoming a Physician" ceremony stressed the importance of both the art and science of medicine, and urged the students to support each other and to develop deep respect and gratitude toward their patients.

“The stethoscope is more than just an icon or a symbol of medical knowledge and skills,” said Martin Cohen, M.D., emeritus professor of medicine. “It also is a reminder that the core of this medical knowledge and the skills to treat patients all begin with listening to the patient.” The white coat, he added, symbolizes professionalism and the obligation to deliver high-quality care—a mission made possible when physicians are committed, respectful, eager to continue learning, collaborative, and mindful of their own health.

Members of the class of 2023
Members of the class of 2023

Following the presentation of a lifetime achievement award for outstanding teaching in physical diagnosis to Dr. Cohen, 10 faculty alumni took the stage as groups of new students proceeded before them, folded white coats draped over their arms. Once the faculty members helped them into their coats, students smoothed their collars and sleeves and smiled broadly at family and friends who filled the seats in Robbins Auditorium. Several students were coated by family members who are Einstein alumni.

The ceremony ended with the group reciting an oath that they created earlier in the week in which they pledged to champion healthcare “as a human right in the name of social justice and progress” and to “contribute to the advancement of medicine through science with our minds open to discovery.”

‘Incredibly Surreal’

At a post-ceremony reception, students described their joy and anticipation of the start of classes on Monday, Aug. 19.

“It’s a special feeling — it’s what you’ve been working for,” said Lindsay Pattison, 25, whose interest in medicine piqued after she dealt with several medical emergencies while leading outdoor educational trips in remote areas. Her Einstein alumnus mother, Theta Pattison, M.D., ’89, coated her, and the two then exchanged hugs onstage. Ms. Pattison said she was looking forward to “putting it all together” and “getting deep into medicine” as she engages with her classmates and explores the possibility of embarking on a global health trip.

Jonathan dos Reis, a 29-year-old student with an EMT, pharmacy industry, and research background, beamed with a mixture of pride and modesty at the post-ceremony reception. He said he looked forward to expanding his understanding of science and building relationships with his classmates.

“I always had my eyes set on Einstein since I was young,” he said, explaining he was drawn to the school’s commitment to educating caring and competent physicians who understand the context of disease within the socioeconomic conditions of their diverse patients. He paused, his voice catching, as he recalled visiting an Einstein open house about eight years ago as a junior in college.

“I remember that moment, surrounded by a bunch of brilliant students and thinking that I should be at a different open house” for a less selective school, he said. “It feels incredibly surreal, finding myself in this position, taking pictures in my white coat in front of the bust of Einstein.”