Future Doctors Receive White Coats

The White Coat Ceremony celebrated the start of medical education for the UA class of 2017.

An acupuncturist who is reinventing his career at age 48, a Tucson native who founded a club for Hispanics interested in careers in medicine and a young mother with a background in medical research were among the 115 incoming students at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson who recently donned their physician's coats for the first time.

The 19th annual White Coat Ceremony, held at UA's Centennial Hall, brought together family and friends of the incoming medical students, and also their College of Medicine mentors and other faculty members.

"This ceremony, held in the presence of family, friends, colleagues and teachers, marks the students' entrance into a family of individuals who will teach, support and work beside them throughout their educational experience," said Dr. Steve Goldschmid, dean of the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.

"The white coat symbolizes their responsibility as physicians to put their patients' interests first. It represents personalized medicine not based on genetics but on compassion," Goldschmid said.

More than 4,000 students submitted applications and nearly 600 were interviewed to fill the 115 slots in the class of 2017. The incoming class includes 62 women and 53 men, ranging in age from 21 to 48. Ten students are Hispanic, five are African American and one is American Indian.

Anne Ivie, originally from Utah and now residing in Sierra Vista with her husband and four children, said the UA College of Medicine – Tucson was her first choice.

Ivie specifically took an interest in the institution because of the culture in Southern Arizona and the friendly, supportive community at the UA College of Medicine.

"White Coat is the beginning of the next chapter of our lives. We are excited for it to be official," said Ivie, previously an athletic trainer whose love of helping people led her to pursue medicine.

Faculty members with the UA College of Medicine's Societies Program serve as mentors and "coated" their students during the ceremony. Such mentors also serve as general career advisers and as the students' first point of contact while in medical school.

Dr. James L. Scott, a professor of emergency medicine and former dean of The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC., provided the keynote address at the Aug. 9 cermony.

"With this white coat comes an unbelievable amount of knowledge, tremendous respect and innumerable opportunities to make a difference," said Scott, a 1983 UA College of Medicine alumnus.

Scott is an inner-city emergency physician widely known for his compassion for the underserved. After receiving his doctorate in 1983, he remained at the UA for his internship in internal medicine. He went on to completed his residency in emergency medicine at The George Washington University, eventually establishing a student-run clinic that provides training for students and health care to the uninsured.

"Enjoy every day; enjoy every step on the way," Scott advised the class during his address.

Following Scott's address, the students recited their class vision and mission statement, which they wrote to affirm their values as future physicians. Students signed the statement after donning their white coat.

"We are proud that you are here. We know what successes are in front of you," Scott said. "We know you will make a difference. Have some fun while you are doing it."

Other students in the UA College of Medicine class of 2017 include:

With three generations of her Los Angeles-area family represented at the White Coat Ceremony, the class of 2017 includes Elizabeth Siacunco, who chose the UA College of Medicine because of its global health focus. Siancuno's mother, Josie, said, “We are excited and happy because this is what she really wants to do. It's a good program with mentors all the way through. We asked Elizabeth not to pursue medicine and she chose it anyway. I'm in the medical field. I'm a physical therapist and know medicine is a hard job. It never stops. I know she wants this. She has volunteered in the emergency room and knows the expectations."

Niana Carter, a Glendale, Ariz., native, holds two bachelor's degrees from Howard University in Washington, D.C., in biology and administration of justice. The mother of a 2-year-old, she has spent most of the last five years working in medical research labs near Baltimore and in Phoenix. As an undergraduate, she worked with children with developmental disabilities, which has inspired her interest in becoming a pediatric neurologist.

Los Angeles native Tom Lotina earned a bachelor's degree in liberal arts from St. John's College in Annapolis, Md., and a master's degree from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine. Lotina also studied acupuncture in China. He has worked as an acupuncturist, a yoga teacher and a contractor specializing in home remodeling. Now he is going to fulfill his dream since college of becoming a family doctor with a focus on integrative medicine, including acupuncture and other "alternative" treatments.

Tucson native Alfonso Robles grew up in Nogales, Ariz. His pediatrician, who did his residency in pediatrics at what was then the University Medical Center, first sparked his interest in becoming a doctor. Robles has a bachelor's degree in physiology from the UA and has worked as a research assistant at the National Institutes of Health and the University of California, San Diego. He also has extensive volunteer experience at clinics that serve the uninsured. He wants to be a pediatrician and stay in Tucson.