164 New White Coats Issued at UConn Health

Fifty-four students in the UConn School of Dental Medicine Class of 2023 (pictured) received their white coats on Aug. 23, along with UConn School of Medicine's 110 new medical students. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health photo)
Fifty-four students in the UConn School of Dental Medicine Class of 2023 (pictured) received their white coats on Aug. 23, along with UConn School of Medicine's 110 new medical students. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health photo)

The Class of 2023, the largest incoming class in UConn Health’s history, is now donning brand, new physician and dentist-to-be white coats.

On Aug. 23, both UConn School of Medicine’s 110 new medical students and UConn School of Dental Medicine’s 54 new dental students, were celebrated by faculty, family, and friends, during the traditional White Coat ceremonies inside the Academic Rotunda.

“This time of year I get so excited because I know it’s going to be electric,” said Dr. Bruce T. Liang, dean of UConn’s medical school in his address to the first-year medical students. “You are the largest class in UConn medical school’s history! You are our future, and the future of medicine in Connecticut and beyond.”

Dr. Sharon Gordon, dean of UConn’s dental school spoke to her school’s largest incoming class ever sharing: “Your white coat represents the next phase of your life as you begin your journey in the dental profession. In this coat, you will learn to be skilled, compassionate, and ethical clinicians. Your coat is a symbol of your commitment to patient care. When you wear this coat—and even when you don’t—be reminded of your duty to treat every patient with respect, dignity, and compassion.”

The powerful symbolism of the white coat was also shared by other dental and medical school leaders.

Dr. Steven Lepowsky, senior associate dean at UConn School of Dental Medicine added, “The white coat is a symbol of the trust society puts in you as health care providers— trust that you will be a lifelong learner, a compassionate and empathetic professional, and an engaged member of the dental community contributing to the well-being of others. This is a great responsibility but we have tremendous confidence in the members of the class of 2023.”

“I consider the white coat one of the primary symbols that represent a health care provider. Use your powers for good,” shared Dr. Thomas Regan, assistant dean of admissions for the medical school. “We hope to teach you the love of medicine. You may be an MS1 (medical student first-year), but I’m an MS27. I’m still learning.”

A warm welcome to the students was also given by Dr. Anton Alerte, president of the Alumni Board and 1998 graduate of UConn School of Medicine. “I welcome you home…and to the family,” said Alerte. “We are a family that picked you, you are family we recruited. You are now a member of a 4,000 member community of former graduates, and faculty and staff.”

UConn Health’s increase of its student body by 30% delivers on the promise of the statewide Bioscience Connecticut initiative aimed at growing the state’s future health care workforce and its leadership in medical education.

This year’s incoming medical student class is 76% from Connecticut, and 38% are UConn undergraduates. Also, 48% of the dental school’s students hail from Connecticut, and 30% come from UConn. Also, both incoming classes are diverse with 23% from groups underrepresented in medicine and 26% from groups underrepresented in dentistry.

“I am very thrilled and excited,” said Basant Sallam, a first-year dental student who graduated from UConn. “It’s been such a long process to get here, and especially long for me because I am coming from Egypt.”

“I am so happy to be here with my family, even though I have only known my classmates for a little while I am really proud of them,” said DeCelia Browne, a new dental student from Orlando, Florida who graduated from Oakwood University.

“I’m really excited to be at UConn School of Medicine,” shared first-year medical student Mary Accurso, of Glastonbury, Conn. after receiving her white coat.

New UConn medical school student, Madison Adams, of Hopedale, Mass. added: “As I start my sixth year at UConn, I am proud to be a triple Husky from Connecticut.”

“I am a first generation immigrant,” shared Maria Antony, of Monroe, Conn., who is a first-year medical student and UConn graduate. “I’m wearing this white coat today because of all the family and friends who believed in me.”

UConn graduate, Eric Beltrami, of Wolcott, Conn., also shared: “With this white coat over my shoulders I hope to make my patients’ lives easier and their days brighter.”

“There are so many people to thank including my family,” said first-year medical student Christopher Bessette of West Hartford after putting his white coat on for the first time. He is a graduate of UPenn and son of Andy Bessette, a member of the UConn Board of Trustees and UConn Health Board of Directors. “My hope is today is the first step to paying back all the people who helped me.”

Dean Liang added: “It’s been 40 years since I was in your seat. I’m still learning from my patients. Congratulations Class of 2023, you deserve it, and have a blast.”