More than 100 journeys on the path to becoming physicians or dentists began for members of the Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Dental Medicine Class of 2025 this month, with new students introducing themselves to classmates and donning their white coats for the first time.
Members of the Class of 2024, well into their second year, also received the in-person welcome they missed last year due to the pandemic in a special Quad ceremony for them dubbed "White Coat 2.0." This year’s welcome events, which kicked off Aug. 2, were the first formal in-person gatherings on the HMS campus since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.
First-year student classes were conducted with layers of public health protections, such as continued masking, and the traditional white coat ceremonies restricted attendance to invited faculty and staff.
“[This is] an especially significant occasion after what we have all been through over the past year and a half,” said HMS Dean George Q. Daley, who welcomed first-year students to campus and commended them for completing their med school applications and interviews in the midst of the pandemic.
“It’s wonderful to be outdoors and to see you live and in person and not on a computer screen,” said Robert Mayer, HMS faculty associate dean for admissions, during the deans’ welcome. “This means so much to us.”
“It really is an incredible day,” added Dean for Students Fidencio Saldaña. “We’ve been waiting since March of last year to celebrate. For faculty, it is the first public event here in many months. So, welcome!”
Many of the first-year students’ classes took place under a tent on the HMS Quad instead of in classrooms, including the deans’ welcome and the students’ first patient clinic, which is normally held in Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Other sessions were delivered online—something the class is familiar with, having already navigated the admissions process and interviews virtually.
During the deans’ welcome, HMS Dean for Medical Education Edward Hundert wandered among the students seated socially distanced under the tent, asking them what they were most excited and most anxious about.
The first student to volunteer an answer said he was most excited to start seeing patients. Another said he too was excited, but added, “I’m nervous about not seeming competent with patients.”
We’re essentially learning in medical school how to learn for the rest of our lives. … We’ll constantly be acquiring more knowledge throughout our careers.
“I think the biggest thing that stuck out to me was emphasis placed on taking care of ourselves first … and encouraging us to take time to figure out the work-life balance before school starts.”