In 1849 when Elizabeth Blackwell graduated at the top of her Geneva Medical College class, she blazed trails and moved mountains for generations of female doctors and professional women. Today, HWS students are still reaping the benefits of her pioneering efforts. Earlier this fall, three graduates from the Classes of 2008, Nicholas Baranco, Meaghan McCarthy, and Rachel Stahl received their first white coats from Upstate Medical College in their journeys toward practicing professional medicine.
The White Coat Ceremony welcomes first-year med students to the profession by providing them with the attire that has come to symbolize doctors.
“We are coated by the faculty and upperclassmen, symbolizing our acceptance of the responsibility and privilege of learning medicine,” said McCarthy. The students further take an oath to be gracious of their teachers, to know the limits of understanding, and to never see anything in their patients but a fellow creature in need.
All three HWS graduates have been on the trail toward Upstate Medical College for quite some time. Baranco and McCarthy were both Blackwell Scholars, which provides full four-year tuition to attend HWS Colleges, a guaranteed seat at Upstate Medical College of Medicine and a waiver of the requirement to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Additionally, Stahl was a member of the Early Assurance program, which allows qualified students to apply and be accepted to medical school at the end of their sophomore year.
Across the nation, entrance to medical school is extremely competitive, and the Blackwell and Early Assurance programs that HWS provided gave Baranco, McCarthy and Stahl a wonderful opportunity.
“Having the Blackwell Scholarship allowed me to get so much more out of my undergraduate experience,” said Baranco who majored in physics with a minor in German. “My HWS education is certainly more diverse than most medical students’, and I feel that I’m more prepared to adapt to the new environment and the rigors of new disciplines.”
Being a Blackwell Scholar offers both wonderful opportunity and an added element of pressure in working toward graduation. “When many of my classmates were studying for the MCATs, I was taking Irish literature in Galway,” recalled McCarthy. “When I was taking the brunt of my premed requisites, my professors were very understanding, as well as the pre-health counselor; and everybody was willing to help me plow through that busy time, and I made it.”
Now in med school looking forward to their opportunities, it is reassuring for the graduates to be together.
“Med school is a daunting place, and it’s reassuring to know that there are friendly faces here,” said McCarthy. “It gave me confidence during orientation that I could be successful here.”
Concluding the White Coat ceremony, Steven J. Scheinman, M.D., dean of Upstate Medical University, commented, “We could have filled our school two or three times over with students who could succeed in medical school, but we chose you because we think you’re the best of the best.”
“It’s exciting to be included with students of that caliber,” McCarthy reflected, “And I know HWS put me here.”