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Class of 2006 challenged to connect with patients

Dr. Peter Kragel, interim dean of the Brody School of Medicine, talks with new medical student Erik Swanson and daughter, Kori, 2, after the white coat ceremony Aug. 19. Photo by Cliff Hollis.
GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Aug. 16, 2002)   —   The 72 members of the class of 2006 at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University were challenged Aug. 16 to wear their white coats proudly while always remembering the people who helped them along their journey to become physicians. The welcoming convocation and white coat ceremony was held in the Brody auditorium.

Keynote speaker Dr. Catherine Sotir, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine, spoke on the quality of ECU's medical school, the professional and personal growth that will come to each student over the next four years, and the need for reflection and appreciation at the end of their training.

"The next four years will be a time of tremendous growth and a time of great struggle," Sotir said. "I'm sure many of you have heard that going to medical school is like trying to drink from a fire hose. At times it will feel this way. You will be overwhelmed from next week on, but the key is not to freak out, stay centered and do the best that you can; to stay proud of yourself, what you have done and not to compare yourself with those around you."

Sotir reflected on her residency in Asheville when she worked with graduates from numerous medical schools including Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Wake Forest and ECU. "We all noticed that the students from ECU were so far ahead of their counterparts," Sotir said. "They were more down-to-earth with exceptional people skills. We all asked, 'What's going on at ECU?' What we realized is that there is a tremendous amount of talent among the staff, faculty and students here. You'll also find something that's quite different and rather nice about ECU is that they really care about their medical students, and they really want you to succeed."

Sotir closed with a challenge to students to remember how it feels to put on their white coat for the first time and that it is a privilege to wear a white coat. "Your white coat is a symbol that represents all who have helped you along the path" to becoming a physician in training and for all those who will have influenced you along your journey, especially patients, she said. "I challenge each of you to go beyond the book learning you will attain to make a healing connection with your patients and treat each one with respect and compassion," she said.

The medical students were welcomed by interim Dean Dr. Peter Kragel. He quoted Dr. Arnold Gold of Columbia University, who founded the white coat ceremony in the early 1990s. "The most important aspect of the white coat is the quality of the person who is wearing it," Kragel said.

This year, medical school applications were down from the 1,221 last year to 1,092 for this year. Of those, 628 were North Carolina residents.

"Nationwide, medical school applications were down this year by approximately 2 to 3 percent," said Dr. Jim Peden, associate dean for admissions at the Brody School of Medicine. "The North Carolina applicant pool was down about 10 percent. We saw a similar trend in the 1990s, and within a couple of years the numbers went back to normal levels. We don't have any explanation for why the numbers dropped this year, but our applications typically reflect the national trend."

Regardless, Peden is confident of the abilities and quality of the class. "We feel that we've found an excellent mix of individuals with all of the intellectual and personal characteristics that we feel they will need to have in order to practice medicine," said Peden. "These students not only have demonstrated the brain power and intellectual skills needed to meet the challenge of a medical curriculum, but they also have strong records of experiences of service to others."

Beatrice Zepeda, who has a biology degree from Meredith College in Raleigh, chose ECU for its small class size and its reputation for producing quality graduates. "It's a very exciting pro

Beginning medical students, from left, Brian Dawson, Charlene Davenport, Matt Collins, Amy Howell and others took a ceremonial step toward becoming a physician at the annual white coat ceremony. Photo by Cliff Hollis.
Beginning medical students, from left, Brian Dawson, Charlene Davenport, Matt Collins, Amy Howell and others took a ceremonial step toward becoming a physician at the annual white coat ceremony. Photo by Cliff Hollis.


Contact: Jane Martin | 252-744-2481