Stephanie Wilcher
Stephanie Wilcher smiles at her family and friends as Dr. Amanda Higginson, right, assistant dean for student affairs, helps her put on her lab coat during the White Coat Ceremony for the Class of 2021 at the Brody School of Medicine. (Photos by Rhett Butler)


Brody welcomes newest class of medical students

Aug. 4, 2017

By Angela Todd
University Communications

The auditorium of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University was packed with family members and excitement as members of its 41st, 4-year class were donned with white coats in an Aug. 4 ceremony.

Students were welcomed by incoming Brody Dean Dr. Mark Stacy, who will officially begin his new role Sept. 1.

During the ceremony – the 16th annual ceremony of its kind at Brody – students crossed the stage one by one to put on their white coats embroidered in purple with the Brody logo. The coats were a gift from approximately 100 Brody alumni – ranging from the Class of 1973 to the Class of 2016. As each student was “cloaked,” he or she was handed a note of encouragement or advice penned by one of the alumni.

Delivering the keynote speech was Dr. William Burke, a 1983 Brody graduate and current dermatology professor.  

Burke advised the students to keep four things in mind. “There are a few things you need to be a good doctor, and being brilliant isn’t one of them,” he said. “Put patient care first, always be honest, always be compassionate and know your own limitations.”

Dr. William Burke, Department of Internal Medicine, was the keynote speaker.

He also encouraged them to take time out for relaxation.

“We’re in eastern North Carolina and there are many beautiful things to see and do,” Burke said. “Remember to get out, relax, and ease your mind from time to time. Your studies will be better for it.”

After students were dressed in their new white coats, they were led in the Medical Student Pledge of Ethics by Medical Student Council chairperson, Stephan Hansen.

All 82 students are North Carolina residents. They were selected from 1008 applicants and represent 30 counties, from Macon in the west to Beaufort in the east, and 23 different undergraduate institutions.

The class boasts an average undergraduate 3.6 GPA. While 42 students majored in biology, there are also African American studies, computer science and business administration students.

The class is 52 percent female and 24 students are minorities.

“It’s really exceptional that as a Latino, he made it to medical school,” said Jenny Fischetti of her cousin and incoming student Alberto Castro. “He’s been wanting to be a doctor since he was 10. He’s always had a love for this and has always worked hard. We’re so excited and proud for the things to come for him.”

Castro’s little brother Eduardo has nothing but confidence in his sibling. “This won’t be a challenge for him because he has so much passion for medicine,” he said.

“It’s the beginning of my lifelong dream,” said incoming student Alexander Young. “I’ve always worked towards this and I think helping others…is the most important thing you can do. I can remember thinking that ever since I was four or five.”

Breana Boyd, who’s interested in pursuing a surgery career said she was excited to get started. “I can’t wait to continue learning from the diverse people and resources that are available here,” she said.

Physicians run in the family for first-year student Jennifer Awuku. Her father, Dr. Martin Agbemabiese, was thrilled to watch her begin her own medical journey.

“She’s always wanted to help the underserved, so Brody is exactly where she needs to be,” he said. “She’s naturally kind and humble. And we’ve always taught her to do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. We’re excited to see her make an impact on the world.”

Students will earn an M.D. degree at the Brody School of Medicine before going on to residencies – additional years of medical training – in various specialties.

The first two years of medical school are classroom-based and encompass basic sciences, ethics and exposure to primary care and doctoring. Year three consists of a series of predetermined clinical clerkships, and the fourth year allows for more individualized clinical experiences. Much of the clinical training occurs away from Brody in rural health care settings across eastern North Carolina.

Members of the Class of 2021 at the Brody School of Medicine recite the Medical Student Pledge of Ethics during Brody's White Coat Ceremony on Aug. 4.