McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

First year medical students celebrate a rite of passage

Published: October 11 , 2006
Among the first year medical students taking part in the White Coat Ceremony were (from left) Phil Doiron, Erin Beattie and Christopher Hillis. In photo below, first year medical student Yasser Hayat was joined by his children, Hadiya, 2 and Ahmad, 5.

By Suzanne Morrison

First year medical students in the Michael G. DeGroote School of medicine received a symbol of their role as medical learners last night, as they took part in McMaster University’s fourth annual White Coat Ceremony at the Hamilton Convention Centre.

Before 550 guests, members of the Class of 2009 individually received a white coat – considered a "rite of passage" into the medical profession and its responsibilities.

This year’s 149 new medical students represent a wide range of ages and backgrounds. In age, they vary from under 19 to almost 40. They hold diverse undergraduate degrees: accounting, arts, biomedical computing, business administration, education, engineering, history, social work and the sciences. Nine Aboriginal students are in the first year class. There are 90 women and 59 men.

Yasser Hayat, 36, originally from Pakistan, said people are always asking him why he chose McMaster. "I tell them it’s the other way around – McMaster chose me," said Hayat, who holds a bachelor of agricultural economics from the University of Agriculture in Pakistan and masters of business administration from the University of Technology Sydney, Australia.

His son, Ahmad, 5, and daughter, Hadiya, 2, cheered him on at last night’s ceremony along with his wife, Tooba.

Sara Sandwith, 24, from Victoria, B.C., was just a teenager when former McMaster physician, Dr. Steve Martin, advised her to become a doctor - and to specifically enrol in McMaster’s medical school – after witnessing her bedside skills first-hand in a medical clinic attached to an orphanage in Haiti. She holds a bachelor of arts in geography with a minor in marine biology from the University of British Columbia.

Yasser Hayat

The first year medical students received the "Crested" coats as gifts from the Faculty of Health Sciences Alumni Branch Council, Medicine Program Office and Faculty of Health Sciences Alumni Office.

University President Dr. Peter George told them through perseverance they had earned the chance to wear the white coat and urged them to accept their social responsibilities as global citizens, as other McMaster medical graduates have done in the past. Dr. James Orbinski, he said, helped found the Canadian branch of Medecins sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) and in 1999 accepted the Nobel prize on behalf of the organization. Dr. Eric Hoskins became the youngest recipient of the Lester B. Pearson Peace Prize and founded War Child Canada, a non-profit organization raising awareness and support for children affected by war.

Dr. John Kelton, Dean and Vice-President of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Dean, Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, reminded the students they are entering the medical profession in its most difficult period – with science evolving so rapidly it’s impossible to stay current, and a health care crisis where patients – just minutes away from the White Coat ceremony - are waiting up to 10 hours in hospital emergency departments for care.

With all that lies ahead, Dr. Kelton asked the students to never forget this moment nor lose sight of the ideals which drew them into medicine.

Before the White Coat ceremony began, guests enjoyed classical piano selections by sisters and second-year medical students Richelle and Rebecca Kruisselbrink.

The evening closed with class president Patricia Farrugia, who asked the new medical students to think about the physicians they want to become, and the lives they will touch.

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