VP&S White Coat Ceremony Welcomes Class of 2026
On Aug. 19 at The Armory, the 140 members of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) Class of 2026 gathered for the White Coat Ceremony, an annual event at which Columbia’s incoming medical students are cloaked in white coats by faculty members for the first time. Of the members of the entering class, 31% belong to groups underrepresented in medicine, surpassing the record-breaking 28% in last year's Class of 2025.
The Arnold P. Gold White Coat Ceremony was established 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. The importance of the tradition was emphasized by Katrina Armstrong, MD, dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, who addressed students in her first White Coat Ceremony at Columbia.
"As you put on your white coat today, I want you to remember that the coat itself symbolizes the deepest tension that exists in medicine," said Armstrong. "The tension between truth, based in science and limited by our current understanding, and hope, based in humanity and inspired by what could be. You wear it not because there are no tensions, no divisions, no differences ahead of you. You wear it because, to paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, 'The test of a first-rate physician is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and retain the ability to function ... to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.' You wear it to sit at the bedside and hold both truth and light."
Students also heard from Michelle Morse, MD, MPH, the ninth Fern Feldman Anolick-Gold Foundation lecturer. She is chief medical officer and deputy commissioner for the Center for Health Equity and Community Wellness at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“Your choices matter,” said Morse. “How you show up and what you stand for matters. Disrupting the status quo matters.”
The Class of 2026 continued a tradition begun last year by reciting their own Class Oath. Their words were carefully crafted to update the Hippocratic Oath to better reflect the values they wish to uphold as they enter their medical training.
“We affirm that all patients deserve compassionate, equitable care that places their needs, values, and personhood at the center,” said the incoming medical students. “We further acknowledge that compassion is an action that requires a daily commitment.”
VP&S Class of 2026
The class has 66 men and 74 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.
The class includes 14 students who 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 2026 come from 27 states and 14 countries (including the United States). Almost 8% of the incoming class is the first generation in their family to attend college.