August 24, 2022—(BRONX, NY)—Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s newest M.D. students began their medical school journey in the Bronx last week with a packed schedule of orientation activities, including tours of the Bronx; lessons on implicit bias; and reminders about the importance of serving marginalized communities, the value of scientific inquiry, and the need to remain lifelong learners.
The week-long orientation introduced the 183 members of the Class of 2026 to each other and to Einstein’s leadership. The students also learned about campus life, health and wellness resources, and volunteer opportunities. Classes for first-year students began on Monday, August 15.
Alumni Welcome Students with White Coats
At the annual “On Becoming a Physician” ceremony on August 10, family members and friends gathered in Robbins Auditorium for the students’ formal investiture into medicine. It was the first time since 2019 that students were able to walk across the stage to receive their white coats from alumni. (The 2020 ceremony was online and the 2021 ceremony was held outdoors with limited guests due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Welcoming remarks were delivered by Philip O. Ozuah, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Montefiore Medicine, who reminded the students of the “gravity of the vocation” and the humility required from those who are called to study and practice medicine. “We’re proud to have you bear our name,” said Dr. Ozuah.
Gordon F. Tomaselli, M.D. ’82, the Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean at Einstein, executive vice president and chief academic officer at Montefiore Medicine, also welcomed the students and their families to the event, explaining that it was “more than a simple rite of passage.” He explained that the white coat is “a symbol of an oath that you take to put the best interest of your patients and your profession first. This requires a commitment to excellence and mastery of the art, science, and humanity of medicine.”
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, said students will have “complex and remarkably impactful experiences at Einstein” and he encouraged them to regularly reflect on their future roles as clinician, educator, and investigator.
“Welcome to the start of a lifelong, wondrous journey which will transform you into skilled physicians,” Dr. Nosanchuk said. “Fundamentally, it is not for you yourself that you are a physician, but it is for the benefit of others. And your sincere investment in lifelong learning is critical to the care and education of those in your charge.”
Alumni Association President Richard Frankenstein, M.D. ’74, an internist and former chief medical officer of two California hospitals, welcomed the group on behalf of Einstein’s 10,000 alumni. Rows of students stood and proceeded to the stage, where alumni helped them into their new monogrammed and personalized white coats. The coats were donated by the alumni association and each student also received a stethoscope donated by Jeffrey Stahl, M.D. ’84, and his wife, Dina.
Pledging to Serve Humanity and Promote Science
To close the ceremony, first-year students Alexandra Hoffman, Deena Najjar, and Darnell K. Adrian Williams Jr. led the recitation of an oath created by the class. Mimoza Meholli, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and assistant dean for student affairs at Einstein, and a hospitalist at Jacobi Medical Center, helped coordinate the oath-writing activity, which began on the first day of orientation. “People put their trust in us to act in their best interest when they are sick,” Dr. Meholli said. “Oaths make the patient-doctor trust explicit.”
Over three days, students gathered in small groups, with faculty members and, for the first time, second-year medical students serving as co-facilitators. At the ceremony, the Class of 2026 pledged, among other things, “to advocate for and promote the social and political changes that best serve the welfare of all people” and “to wield science as an instrument to push the boundaries of research and discovery.”
At a reception following the ceremony, Mr. Williams mingled with family and friends, posing by a bust of Einstein in the courtyard and recalling his longtime goals.
“I’ve worked my entire life to be here,” said Mr. Williams, who is among 14 new students in the Medical Scientist Training Program, which results in a dual M.D./Ph.D. degree. He hopes to study computational neuroscience for his Ph.D. and practice either surgery or radiology. Einstein’s location, diverse patient population, and excellence in research put it at the top of his list for training in academic medicine. “It was awesome to help write the oath and to help lead the class in reading it,” Mr. Williams said. “And the white coat is symbolic of what we’re about to devote our lives to—what you do and who you are.”
Einstein also was Austin Freedman’s top choice, in part because of its diversity and commitment to serving historically marginalized populations. The 24-year-old Florida native said he hopes to become a plastic surgeon and perform gender confirming surgery for transgender individuals. “It’s real, it’s finally happening,” he said, reflecting on the feeling of wearing his new white coat, reciting the oath, and starting medical education and training after years of preparation.
Applicants for the incoming class numbered 9,779—the highest in the College of Medicine’s history. Among the members of the Class of 2026:
- 115 of the students (63%) are women, the highest percentage in Einstein’s history;
- 29 (16%) self-describe as identifying with groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine;
- 14 (8%) students are part of the Medical Scientist Training Program;
- 9 students participated in an Einstein pathway program as undergraduates;
- 25 (14%) were born outside the United States in countries that include Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, China, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Gambia, Greece, India, Iran, Israel, Switzerland, the Syrian Arab Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, the Ukraine, and Zimbabwe;
- 26 states are represented. Eighty (44%) are residents of New York State; 8 were born in the Bronx.
Hitting the Streets for Bronx Day
Orientation week closed with a day devoted to introducing students to their new home borough.
“Our job is to improve human health and human care and that has to start here in the Bronx,” said Dr. Tomaselli, who lived in the borough as a young child. Science remains at the core of medicine and social justice is critical to the care physicians must deliver to their patients, he said, urging the students to remember the importance of adaptability and imagination as they begin their careers.
The morning included presentations from Marcos Crespo, senior vice president for community affairs at Montefiore, New York City Council Member Marjorie Velázquez, Melissa Cebollero, senior director of government and community relations at Montefiore, and a panel of Einstein students involved in advocacy and community programs, including the Einstein Community Health Outreach (ECHO) clinic.
Following the presentations, students boarded buses and headed to five different Bronx neighborhoods. On route, students conducted “windshield” surveys, recording characteristics of the areas, including green spaces, food markets, transportation options, and activities of local residents. At their destinations, they conducted interviews with local residents about their ease in obtaining healthy food, favorite part of living in the area, and their trusted sources of health information. The students also participated in a “health equity challenge” to find the nearest store that sold lettuce, identify the closest public transportation stop, and determine the location of community resources for social needs.
The class reunited at the New York Botanical Gardens to discuss their findings. Future sessions in Einstein’s new service-learning course will focus on delving deeper into the history of the Bronx and its current state, social determinants of health that affect residents, and engaging with the community as a physician. Students will later volunteer for 40 hours at selected local community and nonprofit organizations, bringing lessons from that service to their educational and clinical experience at Einstein.