Story written by Lillian Miess
As part of its 50th anniversary year celebrations, UT Health San Antonio’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences honored 46 PhD candidates in a white coat ceremony on Sept. 16, 2022. The milestone event honors those who passed their qualifying exams, transitioning from a PhD student to a PhD candidate.
The school’s first white coat ceremony occurred in 2017 and has become an annual tradition ever since. Each coat is embroidered with the student’s name and the GSBS logo, which represents the unity of each of the doctoral programs within the school.
The GSBS uses the white coat ceremony to mark the achievements of its doctoral candidates and to charge them to remember the ideals upon which their scientific endeavors should stand. “At the heart of these ceremonies is the recitation of a student oath, a pledge to uphold the same values of integrity, professionalism and scholarship that inspired the white coat over 100 years ago,” said Tim Raabe, PhD, GSBS associate dean.
Words of encouragement for the next stage
With their families, peers and mentors as witnesses, PhD candidates recited the graduate student oath and scientists’ pledge to always maintain integrity and commitment to the scientific community.
The ceremony featured GSBS alumni keynote speaker, Lauren Cornell, PhD, and an address by GSBS student Carlo Vanz.
“Keep your goal in mind. This degree is not yet your true career, it is the training to prepare you for one. Always remind yourself why you applied to your training and what you want to get out of this program. Having a clear goal will help you stay focused, on task, and help you make the most out of your time here,” Vanz said.
“Thanks, and congratulations to our students who achieved this major milestone. Thanks for your excellence and diligence in your work, and congrats on making it here. And I will say that now the real fun begins. After all, you came to graduate school to do science, not to listen to lectures and take exams,” said GSBS Dean David Weiss, PhD.
“Thank you, mentors, for bringing your students to this point. The mentor-student relationship is a true partnership, an apprenticeship of sorts. And our dedicated group of stellar scientists are all so enthusiastic and engaged in creating the next generation of scientists,” Weiss said.
“And finally, to the family and friends supporting our students. These students are on quite a journey to get their PhDs, and we know they need your support. So far so good because they have achieved this major milestone. But please keep the support coming, because while research can be both fun and rewarding, it is so tough on many levels and can be downright frustrating. But thank you,” Weiss said. “Congratulations, candidates! The GSBS is very proud of your accomplishment and wishes you the best of luck in your research project experiments.”
The origins of the white coat ceremony
GSBS Associate Dean Tim Raabe, PhD, explained the history of the white coat ceremony:
The origin of the white coat ceremony has its roots in the medical profession. Until about 1900, physicians wore black for their patient interactions since medical encounters were thought of as serious and formal matters, and in many cases, seeking medical advice was usually a last resort and frequently a precursor to death. The Thomas Eakins painting entitled “The Gross Clinic” depicts a scene from the amphitheater of what was then named Jefferson Medical College (now Sydney Kimmel Medical College) in Philadelphia showing surgeon Samuel Gross, MD, and his assistants — all dressed in black formal attire — performing a leg operation on a young man.
The change in attire from black coats to white coats was documented in a Thomas Eakins painting entitled “The Agnew Clinic” depicting the operating theater from the University of Pennsylvania. Surgeon D. Hayes Agnew, MD, can be seen in a white smock, with assistants also wearing white, suggesting that a new sense of cleanliness pervaded the environment. The patient is swathed in white sheets and the nurse has a white cap. White coats were adopted to emphasize cleanliness and professionalism.
Congratulations to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences 2022 PhD candidates:
Michelle de Oliveira
Aoila Stoja Payne