For more than five years, Nate Brown wore the uniform of a United States Naval enlisted man, serving in Iraq. He then traveled as a civilian through the destruction in New Orleans, chronicling the experiences of locals. Most recently, on Monday, August 24 in the Bronx, the San Diego native was outfitted with garb of a different kind, as he began a path to becoming a doctor.
Future physicians Mr. Brown was one of 183 first-year students at Einstein receiving their official white coat during the College of Medicine's second annual "On Becoming a Physician" ceremony. While each student traveled a unique path to Einstein, each with their own reason for wanting to be a doctor, as they received the distinctive attire of the professional healer they embarked on a common path with a shared purpose ï¿½ saving lives and helping people.
Dr. Allen M. Spiegel, the Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean of Einstein, welcomed the students making up the Class of 2013, along with their family and friends crowding the 650-seat Robbins Auditorium. "Learning is a lifelong process even after you have that diploma," he said. "There will be a thirst for new knowledge and a need to grow as you care for new patients in the many years to come."
The Dean noted further that the white coats represent a sense of great power and responsibility to those who wear them, and emphasized that "students should strive to do the best they can while being equally humble in their tasks and understanding their limitations."
Dr. Tia Powell, the director of Montefiore-Einstein Center for Bioethics, continued this train of thought with her keynote address entitled "The Virtue of Imperfection," focusing on how physicians have been viewed throughout history and how, as time passes, new advances should not discount the past achievements of the doctors who have come before.
"Becoming a physician is not something that is done in a day," she explained. "It is not like climbing a mountain and looking down from the top. It's more like hiking ï¿½ try not to get lost, hold on to your compass, and more importantly, learn from and teach the people you meet along the way."
Onyinyechukwu Uchime, Chino Aneke, Rex Ugorji,
Chinyere Mbagwu In another bit of advice, Dr. Stephen Baum, senior associate dean for students, offered, "It's not about how much you can fill in the space of your pockets," referencing the white coats. "It's about filling the space between your buttons with the type of physician you, your family and all of us hope you will become."
If having a good heart makes for a good doctor, Mr. Brown was born for the role. Having seen how power can play a positive and negative role in the lives of the Iraqi people, and having published a book from the point of view of Hurricane Katrina's victims, Mr. Brown, whose father Marvin is a retired physician, felt the next logical role he would undertake was that of a doctor.
"I want to make an impact on humanity in a positive way," he said. "And I chose to go to Einstein, because they feel, like I do, that you become a doctor to serve others."
Fellow student Scott Bonnono feels the same way. The former mechanical engineer, whose mother, Carol, is a trauma nurse in Portland, found his true calling on a visit to Africa where he volunteered at an orphanage in Kenya. "I watched doctors helping these children afflicted with AIDS," he recalled. "It was an inspiring experience; one that reshaped my whole world view. I knew that I wanted to help people."
Humanitarianism also led Amandeep Singh to Einstein. A native of India, Mr. Singh volunteered at a local clinic in his village and watched the doctors closely. "The doctors were so helpful," Mr. Singh said. They made sure each patient understood what disease was affecting them and what could be done to treat them. I want to be that kind of doctor."
He and his classmates took one step toward being there, as alumni stepped on stage to place a white coat on each student. "This was a very important step in their medical careers," said Dr. Jesse Roth, who recently celebrated his 50th anniversary of graduating from Einstein. "We are not just giving them a white coat; we are instilling a sense of responsibility in them."
Patrice Wout, who already possesses a Ph.D. and is looking to take her career one step further as a psychiatrist, was impressed with the show of support from alumni. "It just made me proud of my decision to attend Einstein," she said. "I hope to come back one day and do the same."
But first, she has a lot of studying to do. As Dr. Nadine Katz, associate dean for students, said, "It's time to hit the books."
Posted on: Wednesday, September 16, 2009