Dress the Part: Medical Students Don First White Coats

Dress the Part: Medical Students Don First White Coats

Marking the transition from preclinical to clinical health sciences, the School of Medicine Class of 2017 participated in the annual White Coat Ceremony.

Written by Suzanna Cisneros

More than 150 students medical students participated in the ceremony, which is considered a rite of passage toward a health care career.

More than 150 students medical students participated in the ceremony, which is considered a rite of passage toward a health care career.

Before attending Texas Tech, Heiko de Riese enlisted for six years in the Texas Army National Guard Infantry. After completing his bachelor’s degree in chemistry, de Riese deployed to Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011 as a staff officer. It was there that his interest in medicine developed while organizing Village Medical Outreach Programs.

In this role, de Riese organized doctors and set up clinics in rural areas, including those under strict Taliban control. The work included traveling to the area, meeting with locals and elders, and discussing issues. This enabled bridges to be built.

“It is unique being in a combat zone – interesting job,” de Riese said. “It is amazing to bring health care to the people in the area. They were very receptive to us. They have no health care in most locations. It was really during this time that I decided I wanted to pursue medicine.”

De Riese, along with 150 other medical students in the Class of 2017, recently took part in the White Coat Ceremony. The ceremony stresses the importance of humanism and professionalism in the practice of medicine. The white coat has been the visual hallmark of physicians since the 19th century. This tradition for first-year medical students marks the student’s transition from the study of preclinical to clinical health sciences.

Steven L. Berk, M.D., TTUHSC executive vice president, provost and dean of the School of Medicine, said the white coat is one of the most visible symbols of the health care provider and many students consider it a rite of passage in the journey toward a health care career.

“For many students, dreams of putting on the white coat begin the day they are accepted into medical school,” Berk said. “The coat symbolizes that the years of hard work and dedication have finally paid off.”

Clare Hubble agrees. Coming from a family of eight siblings, with three sisters studying medicine and parents who are physicians as well, Hubbard said the White Coat Ceremony is momentous.

“With so many doctors in my family, the white coat so emphatically symbolizes being a physician,” Hubbard said. “Even though the first coat is the short one, I am so excited to receive mine because it means I am starting my path to becoming a doctor.”

Hubble, an avid scuba diver and student pilot, hopes to complete her M.D./MBA degree.

“The reality of medicine is you have to have an understanding of the business side of it,” Hubble said. “I want to be able to do both – be an exceptional physician and understand all aspects of my practice.”

Although most her family attended medical schools in California, Hubble said the TTUHSC School of Medicine was her top choice.

“I can’t say enough nice things about this School of Medicine,” Hubble said. “Clearly everyone is here to help educate students – students are the top priority.”

The new 151 medical students include 31 from Texas Tech, 32 from the University of Texas System, 17 from Texas A&M University and others are from top universities such as Duke, Brown, Cornell, University of Virginia and UCLA.

“Fifty different schools, now one class, one team working together,” Berk said at the ceremony. “Students may not remember what was said today, but will remember what they felt – proud. Your white coat today means that you have been invited into a prestigious profession — one where you will be a trusted participant in the most profound elements of human life. Very few are permitted to take this journey that you are beginning.”


Story produced by the Office of Communications and Marketing, (806) 743-2143.

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School of Medicine
School of Medicine

Since 1969, the School of Medicine has graduated more than 3,000 physicians. The school aims to provide quality lab space, recruit creative, innovative research faculty, and develop graduate students and postdoctoral fellows for lifelong careers in medical research.

Today, more than 20 percent of the practicing physicians in West Texas have graduated from the School of Medicine or its residency programs.