University of Southern California: Keck School formally welcomes Classes of 2024, ’25 with White Coat ceremonies

Second-year medical student Peter Cleary might have said it best: “It feels important that we’re all here together.”

The Keck School of Medicine of USC held White Coat ceremonies for the Classes of 2024 and 2025 on successive days, Aug. 5 and 6. They did feel important — not to mention joyous to watch — as hundreds of students celebrated with family and friends at a tradition that could not be held last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s great to officially welcome you to the Keck School of Medicine, and I’m really excited to be able to greet you in person,” said Steven Shapiro, MD, Interim Dean of the school and senior vice president for health affairs at USC. “The past year has been challenging. As we sit here today still masked up, it’s worth noting some of the experiences we’ve had from COVID and how that will inform us as we move forward as a field.”

The Class of ’24 already has a year of med school completed. Their White Coat ceremony was held Thursday, while the Class of ’25 gathered Friday. With the start of the academic year approaching, one by one the MD degree candidates ascended the stage to be “coated” by Ron Ben-Ari, MD, Associate Dean for Curriculum and Tanisha N. Price-Johnson, PhD, Associate Dean for Student Affairs. Then they paused briefly for a photo, to loud applause from loved ones. In all, 371 students participated in the two ceremonies, and about 2,400 others attended in person (about 4,000 remotely), shielded from the late-afternoon sun by white tents.

“I feel like I’ve lived this moment in my head so many times, and to feel the sensation of being here, with the sun setting on the grass, it’s honestly better than I could have imagined. It’s a dream come true,” said Isaiah Eruaga, a first-year who was joined by more than a dozen family members from his hometown of Palmdale.