The start of any academic year is a special time, but for the near capacity crowd at Lisner Auditorium Saturday for the 21st Annual George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences White Coat and Honor Code Ceremony, the event symbolized the first of many milestones for members of the MD program Class of 2025.
“What a wonderful sight this is,” said Barbara Bass, MD, RESD ’86, vice president of health affairs, dean of SMHS, and CEO of the GW Medical Faculty Associates, as she welcomed the new class. “You know, this is the first gathering at this scale, not just for our school and our students and families, but also GW. It’s really a very special time, a rebooting, rebirthing … for our community.
“I want you right now to store in your memory the place, the feeling, and really what an important event this is in your life, not just for you, but for your families and all of us who are with you today.”
Continuing a two-decade tradition, first-year SMHS medical students receive their white coats, a commemorative reflex hammer and recite the honor code at the celebration. The event is sponsored by the GW Medical Alumni Association and the White Coat Initiative and provides financial support for the white coats, supplies used during Community Service Day, and educational technology and software. It also allows SMHS alumni to forge relationships with students entering the field and to welcome them into the professional community.
This year’s class of 183 students from 24 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and China represented 81 universities and included 21 GW alumni. The class brings an already impressive list of accomplishments to campus — advanced degrees and research experience — and boasts Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and Operation Smile volunteers; Fulbright scholars; active duty or veteran service members; and even a pair of beekeepers.
Fourth-year medical student Abigail Nolan offered her insight and experience to the class.
“The good moments are sweeter, and the bad moments sting less,” she said, “when your classmates experience these moments with you. Success is more gratifying when experienced together.”
Hal Frazier II, MD, associate dean for Graduate Medical Education and professor of urology at SMHS, presented this year’s faculty keynote address. Frazier, who also serves as chair of the Board of Trustees for GW Hospital and is among the founders of the urologic robotic surgery program, shared the five simple rules he learned during a medical rotation under Jack Kirk, MD, in a small rural community in New Hampshire.
“He had the most profound effect on me as a professional,” Frazier recalled. “He loved what he did, and he genuinely cared about his patients, no matter what their status in life. It showed on his face and his attitude. He had an attitude of gratitude.”
Kirk offered Frazier the lessons that he carries with him to this day: Treat all patients as if they are members of your own family; always tell patients the truth, no matter how frightening; if somebody does it better than you, send your patient to them; learn to say, “I don't know;” and finally, learn to say, “I'm sorry,” and mean it.
“I believe with all my heart that the secret to living is giving,” Frazier concluded. “This profession allows you the opportunity to give every day. It’s a wonderful gift.”