This year’s White Coat Ceremony saw 86 medical students and four biomedical sciences students at the UC Riverside School of Medicine receive their white coats, symbolizing their entry into the medical profession. The 2023 event was held Friday, August 4 at the Student Recreation Center on the UC Riverside campus.
Deborah Deas, M.D., M.P.H., vice chancellor for health sciences and the Mark and Pam Rubin dean of the School of Medicine, welcomed the class of 2027 and thanked their family members and friends. “This evening is devoted to recognizing our medical and biomedical sciences students who are entering the first chapter of their lives as future physicians and researchers,” she said. “This evening also celebrates what you have done to support them: your love, commitment, and sacrifice.”
Deas noted that this year’s students join the school at an exciting time during its 10-year anniversary, which is also marked by the upcoming opening of the new medical education building.
She also mentioned the 27 students who entered the class as UCR School of Medicine Thomas Haider Scholars. The Thomas Haider Program, supported by SOM donors Dr. Thomas T. Haider and Mrs. Salma Haider, gives select UCR undergraduate students guaranteed entry into the medical school to help ensure that future graduating physicians have a strong commitment to and desire to serve the Inland Empire, directly furthering the School of Medicine’s mission.
Beverly Petrie, MD, professor of surgery at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, assistant chief of the Division of Colon & Rectal Surgery at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and a graduate of the UCR/UCLA Program in Biomedical Sciences, delivered the keynote address.
"Do not forget this moment, because this is the beginning,” Petrie told the students. She recalled visiting her parents’ home when they were rebuilding after a fire to find one of her original white coats that her mother had kept. "She recognized that that was the beginning of where I was at that point and where I was going to go, and she kept it as a memory,” Petrie said.
"To the class of 2027, you'll be cloaked soon and will be reminded often that there is much history in that white coat,” she said. “It is a special honor, and even when you forget it, sometimes those in your family will remember it for you. Sometimes they will have to help you carry the load.”
New SOM student Erik Morales, a first-generation American who grew up in Pomona, said he sees medical school as a second chance to provide an example to his children and help his community. When he was eight, his mother was diagnosed with dual kidney failure, but her medical team and a kidney transplant helped her to pull through—and, years later, to attend this year’s White Coat Ceremony to watch her son start his own medical education.
A member of the Marine Corps for 12 years, Morales said he looks forward to starting his journey into medicine with the goal of serving the veteran population of the Inland Empire after medical school. “The mission that UCR provides was the exact mission fit for who I am, and so I want to give back to the community that's given me so much,” he said.