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A recollection of UA College of Medicine – Tucson Class of 2024 White Coat Ceremony

Leigh Myles
UA College of Medicine – Tucson MD Student

“Life transitions impact us all, deeply if we let them.”

That was the opening of my personal statement I wrote nearly three years ago when applying to medical school, after a decade of working as a film and commercial producer. And it feels no less relevant today when reflecting on my class of 2024 White Coat Ceremony.

They say third time’s a charm, and this was the case for our White Coat Ceremony, as it had twice been postponed because of COVID cases rising. Having completed the full pre-clerkship curriculum and two months of independent dedicated studying for Step 1, this ceremony felt both like a graduation and a reunion. It was a White Coat Ceremony unlike any other — not filled with naïve wonder of what was to come, we had already experienced that momentary feeling of invincibility, which is so prevalent at the beginning of any great quest. Two years of exams and long study nights had flexed upon us the reality that there would always be much to learn, and that discomfort would undoubtedly be a part of the journey. What made this ceremony so special, was being surrounded by friends and classmates who have shared such deep life experiences with over the past two years: the birth of a child; the loss of parents, family, best friends; the excitement of publications, presentations, completing degrees; the victories of winning triathlons and state pageants; engagements, marriages, separations; devastating losses and indescribable joys. And through it all, we continued to suit up and show up every day, to continue to grow and learn in a myriad of ways.

Having family in attendance for the ceremony, many of whom I had not seen since the beginning of COVID, was such a blessing. Aunts and uncles, cousins and high school friends, my mother and godmother – so many loved ones who encouraged me to start my pre-medical journey and who have been there with me through it all were able to be a part of this celebration. Perhaps the biggest lesson for me in the past two years is how life can change in an instant, and I cherished those precious moments with the people I love most in this world.

Receiving my white coat from my Societies mentor, Dr. Barbara Eckstein, who I have had the privilege of learning from over the past two years, was incredibly meaningful. It has been an honor to witness the care and compassion she shows patients, and to experience the thoughtful way she approaches teaching. I feel beyond grateful for the support and encouragement she has extended to me, and hope to be as impactful of a mentor to others in the future.

The Keynote speaker, Dr. Bert Vargas —  a UA College of Medicine class of 1999 alumni, U.S. Air Force veteran and flight surgeon, and sports neurotrauma specialist — had a great analogy of this White Coat Ceremony being like a Super Bowl half time. He noted that it was a time to reflect, regroup, determine what was working, what was not and what lessons we wanted to carry forward into clerkships.

This ceremony was a turning point, a transition and a moment in time I will never forget.

Leigh Myles is a UA College of Medicine – Tucson MD Student.

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