Rising D.C. Public High School Seniors Kick-off their Scholarly Journey at GW SMHS with a Ceremonial White Coat Celebration

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DC HAPP students in Ross Hall

This year’s cohort of DC Health and Academic Preparation Program (DC HAPP) scholars completed the first week of a four-week summer experience at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine Health Sciences (SMHS) on Friday, June 28, 2024, and marked the beginning of their scholarly journey with the ceremonial donning of their first of many white coats.

The event featured guest speaker Andrea Anderson, MD, FAAFP, associate chief of the Division of Family Medicine at the GW Medical Faculty Associates, and chair of the DC Board of Medicine. Anderson, who also serves as associate professor of emergency medicine at GW SMHS, is renowned for her contributions to Washington, D.C., health policy, medical regulation, and medical education. 

DC HAPP, coordinated by the GW SMHS Office of Diversity and Inclusion, originally launched in 2009. The program offers D.C. high school students an immersive learning experience in medicine, patient care, and health equity careers, as well as hands-on health care experiences such as intubation, drawing blood, and even assisting in a mock birthing process.

In her remarks, Anderson addressed the significance of the white coat and the responsibilities inherent in the medical profession. She emphasized the importance of pipeline programs, such as DC HAPP, with statistics on number of Black, Hispanic or Latino, and Asian American licensed physicians in the United States. 

“Either way the numbers are low, and that’s why pipeline programs that I participated in when I was a student are the same ones that exist today,” Anderson told the 20-member cohort of scholars. “We still have a need to increase diversity in the medical community and that is why we are very excited to have you all here.” 

Throughout her speech, the scholars were able to engage in interactive discussions with Anderson, and each other, reflecting on their aspirations in health care careers, what the white coat symbolized to them and their hopes for the future.

With their families and supporters cheering them on via Zoom, each scholar crossed the stage to sign their names in a commemorative book and received their white coats for the first time, assisted by their mentors from the GW SMHS medical school.

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