Newest VP&S Students Recite Their Own Oath at White Coat Ceremony

Members of the VP&S Class of 2025 attend the White Coat Ceremony. Photo credit: Eileen Barroso

Members of the VP&S Class of 2025 attend the White Coat Ceremony. Photo credit: Eileen Barroso

On Aug. 20, the 140 members of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) Class of 2025 were welcomed into the profession of medicine at the school’s annual White Coat Ceremony.

For the first time in the medical school’s 254-year history, the incoming MD students recited their own Class Oath, updating the Hippocratic Oath to better reflect the values they wish to uphold as they enter their medical training. The Class Oath includes a commitment to “acknowledge and embrace the diversity that exists within all communities, and the formative influence that the Washington Heights community will have on my future as a physician.” This year’s ceremony at the Armory was convened in person with limited faculty and guests and was also watched virtually via Zoom.


The idea for a new Oath came up a year ago, shortly before the White Coat Ceremony for the VP&S Class of 2024 but with little time for students to write the content. With this in mind, the rising second-year medical students asked to help members of the VP&S Class of 2025 write their own Class Oath. The writing took place over many weeks this summer. Current MD students were trained by the VP&S Office of Medical Education as writing facilitators to work with the incoming students and collaborating faculty members. Going forward, each incoming MD class will have the opportunity to create its own Oath.

VP&S was one of the first medical schools in the United States to have a White Coat Ceremony when the ceremony was founded at VP&S in 1993 by the late Arnold P. Gold, MD, professor of clinical neurology and clinical pediatrics, to reinforce a strong commitment to humanistic practice. During the ceremony, Columbia’s incoming medical students are cloaked in white coats for the first time. The VP&S Class of 2025 has more students from underrepresented minority backgrounds than any medical school class in Columbia’s history.

Members of the VP&S Class of 2025 are cloaked in white coats. Photo credit: Eileen Barroso

Members of the VP&S Class of 2025 are cloaked in white coats. Photo credit: Eileen Barroso

Sonia Y. Angell, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine, spoke at this year’s ceremony. She is the eighth Fern Feldman Anolick-Gold Foundation lecturer, which recognizes a person who embodies compassion in medicine. She is former director of the California Department of Public Health and California State Public Health Officer and a past deputy commissioner at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In 2020, Angell was elected to the National Academy of Medicine.

“You’re entering the lifelong study of how the human body works, and while the basics will be masterfully outlined, lectured, documented, measured throughout your training, there will also be so much about circumstances that you’re going to have to learn and relearn again and again and again," said Angell. "Because even as we may make decisions about medications and treatments based upon disease and the individual, it is the circumstances of our patients that will, by and large, determine the outcome of their treatment. So caring for the patient includes caring about their circumstances.”

In addition, students heard remarks from Lisa Mellman, MD, senior associate dean for student affairs and the Samuel Rudin Professor of Psychiatry; Anil K. Rustgi, MD, interim executive vice president and dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine, the Herbert and Florence Irving Professor of Medicine, and director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center; Monica Lypson, MD, MHPE, vice dean for education and professor of medicine; and Laura Forese, MD, MPH, executive vice president and chief operating officer of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

A member of the VP&S Class of 2025 receives a new stethoscope. Photo credit: Jenny Gorman

A member of the VP&S Class of 2025 receives a new stethoscope. Photo credit: Jenny Gorman

Earlier in the week, VP&S Alumni Association staff distributed personally engraved stethoscopes to each member of the Class of 2025. Stethoscopes are donated each year by VP&S alumni to welcome new students to the medical profession. More than 2,000 stethoscopes have been gifted since this tradition began in 2007. Students often say that receiving this symbol of active and skilled listening marks their first tangible step on the journey to becoming a physician.

In case you missed it, watch this full recording of the VP&S White Coat Ceremony. 


About the VP&S Class of 2025

The 140 members of the Class of 2025 were chosen from a field of 8,080 applicants.

Twenty-eight percent of the class belong to underrepresented minority groups.

The class has 71 men and 69 women.

The class includes 10 students enrolled in the Columbia-Bassett Program, which combines traditional medical education in New York City at VP&S and hospital-based outpatient and inpatient clinical education at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, New York.

Fourteen students will train as physician-scientists in the MD/PhD dual degree program. Two students are entering the accelerated three-year PhD-to-MD program, and two students are entering the MD-Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery program.

Members of the Class of 2025 come from 34 states and Washington, D.C.

Ten percent of the class is the first generation in their family to attend college.