Cornell University: Veterinary College celebrates White Coat Ceremony

The College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) celebrated the Veterinary Class of 2023 with its annual White Coat Ceremony, which marks the transition from preclinical coursework to a year of clinical rotations, on April 30 in Statler Hall.

Students will move from learning in classrooms and labs to getting firsthand experience in the Cornell University Hospital for Animals, where they engage with and learn from clinical faculty.

“Your role will change as a fourth-year student while you take on more significant responsibilities in patient care, and at the same time you’ll be connecting the concepts you studied in the pre-clinical courses with clinical applications,” Lorin D. Warnick, Ph.D. ’94, the Austin O. Hooey Dean of Veterinary Medicine, said in his welcome remarks.

Warnick offered some advice from his experiences as a student, a faculty member and former teaching hospital director. First: Respect and value the animals and people they’ll be interacting with, as they’re all part of the educational experience. Second was to be discerning about what they read and hear: “It has always been the case that veterinarians and other medical professionals needed to be able to discern fact from fiction in the constant stream of information,” he said.

He also advised students to be willing to learn from every rotation, even if they think it might not relate to their future career. And finally, he suggested they “dress warmly for your ambulatory farm calls next winter.”

Warnick also acknowledged the clinicians and staff at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals who will be instrumental to student learning in the coming year. “In my view, you’ll be taught by the best faculty and staff in the world. I’m awed by their knowledge and dedication,” Warnick said.

Jai Sweet, Ph.D. ’96, the assistant dean for veterinary student services and admissions, conducted the coating ceremony, where students are called individually to the stage to receive their official Cornell white coats from a chosen mentor. Brett Tillou, D.V.M. ’04, president of the CVM Alumni Association Executive Board, then led the group through the Veterinarian’s Oath.

“Please know that the vet world you’re about to enter is filled with Cornell alumni who care for you, look out for you and can help you achieve success,” Tillou said.

This year’s keynote speaker was Mara DiGrazia ’92, D.V.M. ’96, co-partner of the Veterinary Excellence Trusted Solutions Group. “Clinics for us were just as scary and exciting for us back then as I imagine they will be for you now,” DiGrazia said. “It’s impossible to know everything, but you have a solid base – and these upcoming rotations are just going to add to that base. You’ll never stop learning.”

Jessica McArt, D.V.M. ’07, Ph.D. ’13, associate professor in the Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences and member of the College Awards Committee, then presented the John F. Cummings Memorial Award to Michelle Greenfield, D.V.M. ’23. Established in 1996 in memory of John Cummings ’58, D.V.M. ’62, M.S. ’63, Ph.D. ’66, the James Law Professor of Anatomy who taught at Cornell for 29 years, the scholarship provides financial assistance to a student who has demonstrated clear and outstanding academic achievement in the study of veterinary medicine or comparative medicine.

Next, Dr. Meg Thompson, director of the Cornell University Hospital for Animals, congratulated the group and welcomed them to the hospital. She shared that although she is a radiologist, the rotation she loved best as a student was ambulatory medicine.

“I want you to realize that every rotation has something cool for you to learn; every species has something that can translate through rotations,” Thompson said. “And please know that you have tons of support from everyone in the hospital.”

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