UVM’s Newest Future Physicians Receive First White Coats

October 15, 2022 by Jennifer Nachbur

The UVM Larner College of Medicine medical Class of 2026’s White Coat Ceremony took place on October 14, 2022, at Ira Allen Chapel.

University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine white coats hang on racks in anticipation of the White Coat Ceremony.

In 1822, Vermont physician John Pomeroy, medical educator Nathan Smith and others organized the first official series of lectures at what would later be called the College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, and in 1823, UVM produced its first graduates to earn a medical degree. Now, 200 years later, UVM’s newest medical students are celebrating a historic milestone in their quest to become physicians – receiving their first white coats.

The UVM Larner College of Medicine's medical Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony took place October 14, 2022, at UVM's Ira Allen Chapel. 

With the chapel filled with 121 first-year medical students, family members, loved ones, faculty and staff, the Larner College of Medicine’s White Coat Ceremony opened with a welcome from Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education Christa Zehle, M.D.

"Your White Coat Ceremony is intended as a formal recognition of your transition from aspirant to participant in clinical medicine," she told members of the medical Class of 2026.

In his remarks to the students, Larner College of Medicine Dean Richard L. Page, M.D., said, "I want to acknowledge, and thank you, for deciding to become a physician, for applying during a pandemic. There was a fire, and you ran toward that fire. I do believe things are getting better, but we have never needed you more."

Following remarks from UVM Health Network Medical Group CEO and Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs Jason Sanders, M.D., M.B.A., Timothy Lahey, M.D., M.M.Sc., the Larner College of Medicine’s 2022 Arnold P. Gold Foundation Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Faculty Award recipient, presented the Humanism in Medicine Keynote Address. Lahey, who is a professor of medicine and UVM Medical Center director of clinical ethics, described the milestone of receiving one's first white coat as "a holy moment."

During the Presentation of Coats, each medical student was cloaked with a white coat on stage. Each white coat had a Humanism in Medicine pin on the lapel (provided by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation), a keepsake copy of The Oath provided by the UVM Office of Primary Care, and a White Coat Note card, a message of encouragement for each medical student written by a Larner College of Medicine alum, tucked into the pocket.

UVM’s Newest Future Doctors

Members of the UVM medical Class of 2026 began their medical school journey on August 8, 2022 and are now nine weeks into the Foundations of Clinical Science course in the College of Medicine’s Foundations level of the curriculum.

“The last two months have been incredibly fulfilling,” says Class of 2026 medical student Maisie Laud, who adds, “I’m elated to be surrounded by such bright minds who continue to lift me up and push me to be better.” A softball-related finger break and subsequent staph infection and partial amputation sparked her interest in medicine, but what she learned about herself as a stand-up comedian convinced her she could tackle and succeed in medical school.

UVM undergrad and graduate alum Christopher Kruglik ’26 has been in Burlington for several years, attending school and working for AmeriCorps, the DREAM program, and Community Health Centers of Burlington prior to starting medical school. He says, “Yes, medical school is just as difficult as I had imagined … incredibly challenging, yet so rewarding!”

Born and brought up in a refugee camp in Nepal where her family settled after leaving Bhutan, Angela Khadka '26 moved to the U.S. when she was 10 years old. The Essex Junction, Vt., resident and UVM undergraduate alum says she was inspired to become a physician as a child after witnessing the deaths of family and friends at the refugee camp. "I am excited to receive my first white coat after years of dedication and hard work," says Khadka, who adds that "It has been not just my dream but my family’s dream ... my white coat represents my privilege to advocate for minority populations such as my Nepali speaking community, and new Americans." (Watch WCAX-TV's coverage of UVM's 2022 White Coat Ceremony, featuring Khadka.) 

Shadowing experiences with several physicians who demonstrated compassion, skills, and dedication to their patients inspired Matt Chmait ’26 to pursue a career in medicine. The Los Angeles, Calif. native says, “I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be trusted with the duties and responsibilities that come with being a part of the Larner College of Medicine community.”

Third-generation UVM medical student and Vermonter Devin Hebert ’26 worked in the education field prior to medical school. He says that what he has most appreciated over the past two months is his classmates. “It is an amazing group of individuals that collectively act to support and aid one another,” he says, adding that, “Everyone has a unique backstory and an incredible desire to become the best physician they can be.”

Faculty participating in the Presentation of Coats included: Mary Cushman, M.D.’89, M.Sc., professor of medicine and president, UVM Larner College of Medicine Alumni Association; Karen George, M.D., associate dean for students; Ellen Kulaga, M.D., Connecticut Campus assistant dean for students; Karen Lounsbury, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and level director of Foundations and pre-clinical assessment; and Mariah McNamara, M.D., M.P.H., interim assistant dean for students.

At the end of the ceremony, Larner Dean Page led members of the Class of 2026 in reciting “The Oath,” an adapted version of the Oath of Lasagna of 1964.

About the White Coat Ceremony

Initiated on August 20, 1993 at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, this annual ceremony or a similar rite now takes place for first-year medical students at about 90 percent of schools of medicine and osteopathy in the United States, and is supported by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. According to the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the White Coat Ceremony helps establish a psychological contract for the practice of medicine. Physicians dressed in black until the late 19th century, due to the association of black attire as formal. Physicians adopted the white coat as a symbol of purity at the beginning of the 20th century. (Source: Mark Hochberg, M.D., “The Doctor's White Coat—an Historical Perspective,” American Medical Association Journal of Ethic’s Virtual Mentor website, April 2007)