Tradition Takes a Twist at Transition Ceremony for VP&S Class of 2024

On April 4, 140 second-year medical students in the Class of 2024 at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons marked their transition to patient-centered training.
On April 4, 140 second-year medical students in the Class of 2024 at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons marked their transition to patient-centered training.

Every year, second-year medical students at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons attend a ceremony to mark the transition from classroom-based instruction to patient-centered training.

But this year, the tradition took a twist. For the first time at the Steven Z. Miller Student Clinician’s Ceremony, students were cloaked in their white coats by faculty members and recited a class oath they co-wrote to better represent their values and commitment to medicine and serving underserved populations. Typically, medical students are cloaked at a white coat ceremony when they start medical school, but the journey of this class from then until now has been far from typical.

“Due to the pandemic, the Class of 2024 had a virtual white coat ceremony in August 2020 and never had the opportunity to experience that truly special moment when they are cloaked for the first time," says Lisa Mellman, MD, senior associate dean for student affairs at VP&S. "This year their coats fit especially well since their clerkships have already begun and they know what it means to wear them in taking care of patients. These students have also continued the new tradition established last year by the Class of 2025 of writing their own class oath.”

What hasn’t changed is that the Steven Z. Miller Student Clinician’s Ceremony celebrates the start of each student’s Major Clinical Year, a series of rotations through different hospital and ambulatory settings, including NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. This tradition of celebrating the transition began in 1998 and pays homage to the late Steven Z. Miller, MD’84, who founded the first transition ceremony at VP&S. Miller was the Arnold P. Gold Associate Professor of Pediatrics at VP&S and a national leader in humanism in medicine; he died in a plane crash in 2004.

“From the start, your class arrived with an awareness of collective power,” said Hetty Cunningham, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at CUMC, who gave remarks to students from the clinical faculty during the ceremony this week. “This is entirely fitting because medicine is best practiced as a team, not an individual endeavor. Hold on to this team orientation. Through teamwork, you will magnify your impact on health and support each other.”

During the ceremony each year, awards are given by the class making the transition into patient-centered education and by the class that just finished its Major Clinical Year.

The Class of 2024 honored its teachers by giving Alan Detton, PhD, assistant professor of pathology & cell biology at CUMC, the Fundamentals Outstanding Teacher Award, which recognizes classroom teaching.

The Class of 2023, which just completed its Major Clinical Year, presented Roman Nowygrod, MD, professor of surgery, its Major Clinical Year Outstanding Teacher Award. The class also honored several hospital staff and faculty:

  • Resident Teaching Awards were presented to Rachelle Dugue, MD, PhD (neurology, NYP); Laura Gemmell, MD (obstetrics & gynecology, NYP); Nicole Meyers, MD (pediatrics, NYP); Lauren Page, MD (obstetrics & gynecology, Stamford Hospital); Aaron Slan, MD (psychiatry, NYP); and Rafael Vissepo-Barba, MD (medicine, NYP).
  • Clinician Awards, for non-physician members of the health care team who are integral to the medical student experience, were presented to Christina Camacho, RN (NYP); Steven Doobin, LMSW (New York State Psychiatric Institute); Princess Johns (Stamford Hospital); and Lucille Sandoval, LMSW (Gracie Square Hospital).