Carrying on its legacy as Connecticut’s number one producer of medical professionals, UConn School of Medicine has welcomed its Class of 2026. The incoming class has 110 future doctors, selected from more than 4,000 applicants, embarking on their four-year medical education journey.
On August 19 the medical students were issued their new white coats during the traditional White Coat Ceremony in UConn Health’s Academic Rotunda.
“You’ve chosen to become part of UConn School of Medicine and our more than 50 years of legacy. We have been building tomorrow’s health care workforce since 1972,” shared Dr. Bruce T. Liang, dean of the School of Medicine and interim UConn Health CEO at the White Coat Ceremony. “The pandemic has shown that this is a calling for you and that you will be part of the health care heroes. You are the future of medicine for our state and our country. And the future starts right here, with your new white coat.”
The Class of 2026
“We have a great class coming in!” says Dr. Thomas Regan, assistant dean for Admissions and Student Affairs at the School of Medicine.
Impressively, the class is 60 percent female. “This is a trend in medicine that has been happening, and we are mirroring it,” reports Regan.
Plus, proudly 40% of the first-year medical students are graduates of the University of Connecticut, and 66% are from Connecticut with an average age of 24.
Also, 23% of the incoming class are from underrepresented groups in medicine (URiM). UConn’s medical school is nationally renowned for its diversity.
“About 50 percent of our pathway program students choose to come here,” says Regan who has been working closely with Dr. Marja Hurley, director and founder of the longstanding Health Career Opportunity Programs at UConn Health. The 14 distinct Aetna Health Professions Partnership Initiative-sponsored programs, centered around building pathways to create a more diverse medical student body and future health care workforce, are critical in getting more young people, of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds interested in medicine and science.
UConn Health Nurse Becoming Doctor
Ted Oliveira, 26, of Waterbury is a former UConn Health nurse entering the School of Medicine to be a future Connecticut doctor.
“I’m so excited to start medical school,” says Oliveira. “I’ve been counting down the minutes.”
On August 19 he put on his medical school white coat for the first time.
“Donning my white Coat validates all the trials and tribulations I had until this moment. It shows all the hard work was worth it to get where I am today. This white coat is the first step toward a hopefully long career as a physician,” says Oliveira.
Growing up Oliveira never had a goal to be a doctor until after completing UConn School of Nursing (’18) and working as a UConn Health nurse in both the hospital’s intermediate unit and emergency department.
“I always knew I wanted to help people,” says Oliveira “and I’m UConn everything. As a nurse working with UConn Health doctors, seeing their level of experience and at the bedside with patients, I knew I wanted to become a doctor and also have all the answers like they do!”
He adds: “Nurses face the front of everything. As a former nurse I am going to have a very unique perspective and have a huge respect for the nurses I work with. I’ve been there on the front-line with them, and have walked in their shoes 100%.”
This January Oliveira got an invite to interview at UConn Health and two weeks later received an acceptance email: “It was very surreal.”
Oliveira, while working full-time as a nurse, for several years completed his prerequisite classes to qualify for medical school and prepare for the MCAT medical school entrance exam.
“My mentors and doctors at UConn Health have really showed me the influence you can have on the lives of your patients. I want to be that for other people. I look forward to learning and being the doctor to solve patients’ problems and make them feel better.”
Plus, Oliveira plans to remain in Connecticut to practice medicine someday.
“My roots are here in Connecticut. This is the community I want to serve,” stresses Oliveira who looks forward to continuing to give back to his hometown community of Waterbury where he often volunteers. “I hope to keep that going while in medical school.”
CT AHEC AmeriCorps to UConn School of Medicine
“The white coat is not only a symbol of many years of hard work to get to this day, but also the beginning of a chapter where my dreams are becoming even closer to my reality,” says incoming medical student Julia Levin, 24, of Dartmouth, MA who has been in the AmeriCorps program with CT AHEC at UConn Health.
“Wearing my white coat, I will feel a responsibility to care for my community. I look forward to practicing community-based care, meeting my patients where they are, and repairing the world, one patient at a time,” says Levin who has chosen to attend the UConn School of Medicine because of its collaborative and community-oriented learning environment to learn together with classmates both in the classroom, and in the community.
Levin’s been inspired to enter medical school by CT AHEC mentor Professor Emeritus Dr. Bruce Gould who taught her that you can’t let a pandemic go to waste.
“Now, more than ever, we, the next generation of health care providers, need to learn to become unbiased clinicians with the goal of changing the healthcare system for the betterment of all individuals, no matter their race, religion, zip code, socioeconomic status, etc.,” says Levin.
Also, her mother became a nurse when she was five years old. “It was this exposure, and other confirming ones, that got me excited about a career in medicine. Being the first physician in my family is daunting for sure, but I am excited to start the long journey ahead.”
Researcher Heads to Medical School
Class of 2026 medical student Jimin Shin, 24, hails originally from New Jersey and has been working in Providence, RI over the past two years on infectious disease clinical trials, including a COVID-19 vaccine trial.
“Working as a Research Assistant in the Department of Infectious Diseases at The Miriam Hospital in Providence provided me the chance to witness the amazing ID physicians at work, providing compassionate and expert care to all the patients that entered the clinic. Shadowing my mentors helped me to envision the image of the physician I aspire to be, one that will be able to address the patient as a whole human rather than a host of diseases and illnesses,” Shin says.
Shin believes that now is the best time to be a physician.
“The COVID-19 pandemic further brought to light some of the problems with our healthcare system, and I believe that the chance to work within that system is an opportunity to bring about change, no matter how small,” he says.
To Shin the white coat symbolizes a new beginning and a new chapter in his medical journey.
“Putting on the white coat will prompt me to acknowledge all the help that I have received to reach this stage, be it from family, friends, mentors, and co-workers, and will renew in me the responsibility to reciprocate the kindness and help to my future patients,” says Shin.
He adds: “I can’t imagine any different career for myself. I get to actively make a difference in people’s lives using my knowledge and skillset while maintaining and continuing to pursue my interests in the sciences.”
Welcome to UConn Class of 2026!
“Here we go UConn Huskies! Congratulations Class of 2026,” exclaimed Dean Liang.