August 18, 2021—BRONX, NY—As he mourned the loss of two family members to complications of COVID-19 and grew weary from isolating in his studio apartment last year, Jehron Pura-Bryant doubled down on his goal to become a physician.
The pandemic had reinvigorated his aspiration “to be at the forefront of healthcare” and served as a call to action to help others. While Mr. Pura-Bryant finished his medical school applications, he also volunteered at COVID-19 testing sites and picked up groceries for his neighbors in Philadelphia.
“Sometimes it is hard to put into words how grateful I am to even be here,” Mr. Pura-Bryant said recently as he prepared to join his 182 classmates at Einstein’s orientation week for first-year students. “Occasionally, I pinch myself to make sure this is not all a dream.”
Annual White Coat Ceremony
The Class of 2025 gathered in the Central Courtyard on August 12 to receive their monogrammed white coats donated by Einstein alumni at the annual “On Becoming A Physician” ceremony.
The event occurred nearly 17 months to the day when the surge of COVID-19 cases in New York City led Einstein to institute a virtual curriculum for all students. While the current number of cases in New York is low, the recent uptick due to the delta variant led Einstein leaders to hold the ceremony outdoors (with masks), live-streaming the event for family and friends who wanted to join.
Each white coat, embroidered with a student’s name along with “Albert Einstein College of Medicine,” is a visible symbol of the start of their journey on “a noble path” that requires humility and decency, said Philip O. Ozuah, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Montefiore Medicine, the umbrella organization for Montefiore Health System and the College of Medicine.
“We’re proud to have you bear our name,” said Dr. Ozuah. “And as you bear our name, also bear in mind the words of our eponymous founder, Dr. Albert Einstein, who said, ‘We cannot despair of humanity. Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion.’”
“Always Learn More, Especially From Your Patients”
Joshua Nosanchuk, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education and professor of medicine and of microbiology & immunology at Einstein and an infectious disease specialist at Montefiore, urged the students to embrace the roles of clinician, investigator, and educator.
“As physicians, you will be continually educating yourselves…You will deliver heartbreaking news and you will also cure and guide,” said Dr. Nosanchuk. “Always remember to be humble. You will have amazing skills and knowledge but you can always, always learn more, especially from your patients.”
Alumni Associate President-Elect Richard Frankenstein, M.D., ’74, an internist and former chief medical officer of two California hospitals, welcomed the new students on behalf of Einstein’s 10,000 alumni. He introduced Rachel Kaye, M.D., ’11, assistant professor of otolaryngology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical Center, who praised the empathy and dedication to patients exemplified by her father, Thomas Kaye, M.D., ’78, a retired neurosurgeon who died last year. The Kaye family, along with their fellow alumni and friends, provided funds for professional stethoscopes that will be given to the students in memory of Dr. Kaye. In addition, Jeffrey Stahl, M.D., '91 and his wife Dina helped sponsor the white coats in memory of Dr. Shahl's parents, Reva and Joseph, and Ms. Stahl's father, Abraham Sodden.
Jeffrey Stahl, M.D., ’84 and Dina Stahl also sponsored the white coats for the incoming students. They were given in memory of his parents, Reva and Joseph Stahl, and Mrs. Stahl’s father, Abraham Sodden.
Led by student Julia Hyacinthe, the first-years recited the class oath they wrote together. They pledged to promote productive collaborations between researchers and clinicians, treat patients with dignity and respect, and act as “ambassadors of science and medicine” to counter misinformation.
Diverse Class Committed to Service
This year there were 9,773 applicants to Einstein—the highest number in the College of Medicine’s history and more than 20% higher than last year. (Application rates rose 14% nationwide.) The admissions team conducted 1,206 interviews before accepting 183 students. In addition:
- 109 of the students (60%) are women;
- 37 (20%) self-describe as identifying with groups underrepresented in medicine;
- Eight students are part of the Medical Scientist Training Program and will earn both an M.D. and a Ph.D.;
- Five students participated in an Einstein pipeline program as undergraduates;
- 30 students were born outside the United States; class members come from 17 states and more than half are New York State residents;
- 25 students are certified EMTs and four are Eagle Scouts.
Always remember to be humble. You will have amazing skills and knowledge but you can always, always learn more, especially from your patients.
Joshua Nosanchuk, M.D.
Inspired by the Pandemic
Mr. Pura-Bryant was not alone in being influenced by COVID-19 to pursue a medical career. Brianna Smith saw the pandemic’s effects while working as a clinical research coordinator at Massachusetts General Hospital. Clinical studies were suspended as the first wave hit the state. When she began calling participants and asking them about re-joining a study, she noticed they sounded different.
“I sensed a tangible loneliness in some of the patients’ voices,” said Ms. Smith. “Having to navigate living alone myself during the pandemic, I gained an understanding of the psychological burden and isolation that many patients have experienced because of COVID-19. This reinforces the importance of humanizing medicine.”
Her desire to be a physician was reinforced when she watched doctors and other healthcare professionals demonstrating empathy as they cared for their patients. Einstein stood out to her as a top choice for medical school due to its commitment to educating physicians to “serve as catalysts for social change” and work toward building a more just and equitable healthcare system.
“While it's no surprise that the next four years will be challenging and stressful at times,” she added, “I hope that my classmates and I will maintain our excitement and awe of medicine as we work towards our dream of becoming the next generation of physicians.”
Sara Krivacsy, another new medical student, echoed her classmate’s comments about attributes that elevated Einstein above other schools.
“During my virtual visit, I felt that there was a sense of humility in the approach to both education and clinical care that would help shape me into a thoughtful physician-citizen,” said Ms. Krivacsy. “I look forward to getting involved in community efforts to mitigate harmful social determinants of health. I feel that my education at Einstein will help me learn how to contribute towards a health system that leaves no one behind.”
As for Mr. Pura-Bryant, he still recalls the February day he received an email from Einstein, the school where he had sensed a close-knit community and an institutional commitment to helping students succeed. “I appreciate this opportunity,” he said, “and I’m grateful that Einstein has given me the chance to be the physician that I have always dreamed of becoming.”