Class of 2017 Receives White Coats

2013 White Coat Ceremony

First-year medical student Kamisha Byas receives her white coat at Friday’s ceremony. (Sarah Turker/UConn Health Center Photo)

It was a memorable day for 90 new medical students and 43 new dental students as they received their white coats for the first time during the annual white coat ceremony on Friday.

“Today’s ceremony has nothing to do with a white coat, in my opinion,” said Dr. R. Lamont MacNeil, dean of the UConn School of Dental Medicine. “It’s who wears the white coat; it’s about the person inside. We feel that you will all fill these white coats very well.”

The Class of 2017 is a well-rounded and diverse group of medical and dental students. Under-represented minorities comprise 9 percent of the School of Medicine and 16 percent of the School of Dental Medicine. Science or health-based majors were the majority of undergraduate programs, but not the path that all chose — 15 percent of medical students and 16 percent of dental students graduated with undergraduate degrees that were not health or science based. Ten percent of incoming medical students have an advanced degree, as well as one of the dental students.

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Alexa Heller, a dental student from New Fairfield, receives her white coat. (Sarah Turker/UConn Health Center Photo)

“We are proud to welcome the Dental Class of 2017 to UConn,” said Dr. Edward Thibodeau, associate dean for admissions in the dental school. “We are fortunate to have a group that demonstrates academic excellence, a dedication of service to others and a strong love for dental medicine.”

Dr. Richard Zeff, assistant dean for admissions, also had positive feedback on the students that were preparing to begin UConn’s School of Medicine.

“The medical school class entering in 2013 is outstanding by every metric,” said Zeff. “As a class they have superb academic preparation, exceptional research accomplishments and a demonstrated commitment to service. I anticipate that they will add greatly to our community and culture of excellence!”

Alexa Brancato, a Guilford native and 2013 graduate of the University of Connecticut is one of the students who received her white coat for the School of Dental Medicine. Brancato majored in biology with her heart set on dentistry.

Class of 2017 Statistics

Medical Dental
Overall GPAs: 3.7 3.64
MCAT/DAT: 31.9 20.7
Women: 47% 51%
Men: 53% 49%
CT Resident: 89% 53%
UConn Storrs: 34% 30%

“I have wanted to be a dentist ever since I was young. In order to be a dentist today, I feel you need to master both art and science. It’s important to have an artist’s touch when perfecting a patient’s smile as well as a strong background in the science behind the materials being used and the structure of the mouth,” she said.

Brancato said she chose UConn for a number of reasons. “I love Connecticut and want to continue my career here. I had heard great things about UConn’s dental program and so far all the faculty have been extremely welcoming and friendly. In regards to my profession, I know that UConn’s renovated labs and new technology will be a fantastic resource in learning both the art and the science required in dentistry.”

Yianni Apostolakos is one of the students who will be part of the UConn School of Medicine’s Class of 2017. A Rochester, New York native, Apostolakos graduated from UConn in 2011 with a degree in finance.

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Members of the medical class of 2017, from left, Yianni Apostolakos, Thomas Atwood, William Page, and Huazhen Chen. (Sarah Turker/UConn Health Center Photo)

“I knew I had an interest in business and the sciences when I started college,” he said. “I decided to pursue a degree in finance, but because of my interest in medicine, planned to enroll in a post-bac program after graduation.”

Apostolakos was playing football at UConn in addition to his classes, but after several injuries and surgeries, his football career was curtailed and he found he had more time on his hands.

“I had several more hours each day for science courses and labs. I decided to complete the science courses while finishing my finance degree, which meant I did not need to apply to a formal post-bac program.”

Apostolakos’ surgeon was Dr. Augustus Mazzocca, the director of the New England Musculoskeletal Institute and chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Apostolakos began researching with Mazzocca on a volunteer basis during his junior and senior years. Once he graduated, he began working full time as a bioskills lab facilitator.

Dr. Torti addresses the Class of 2017.  Sara Turker/UConn Health Center Photo

Dr. Frank Torti, dean of the medical school and executive vice president for health affairs, addresses the class of 2017. (Sara Turker/UConn Health Center Photo)

“Becoming an active member of this network taught me the importance of trust and communication between coworkers. My life experiences have prepared me to serve the community as a physician. I have realized the sacrifices that I must make for my patients and I am ready to embrace this challenge,” said Apostolakos.

That’s the kind of attitude that was encouraged by Dr. Frank Torti, dean of the medical school and executive vice president for health affairs, when he welcomed the new students and before they donned their white coats.

He told them to be advocates for their patients, and also advocates for each other. “Because you’ll never make better friends than the friends you’ll make here,” he concluded.


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