For Carle Illinois College of Medicine’s Class of 2024, starting a medical career during a worldwide health crisis meant postponing the traditional ceremony launching their journey to become physicians.

Dara Nafiu, Class of 2024
Oluwadara Nafiu

The group of 48 students started medical school in July 2020 under COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, requiring Carle Illinois to postpone the milestone event where they receive their white coat and commit to the ethical practice of medicine. After a year’s delay, the future physician-innovators celebrated their budding medical careers during a special in-person White Coat Ceremony at Foellinger Auditorium on Sunday, July 18, 2021.

Carle Illinois Dean King Li and Executive Associate Dean and Chief Diversity Officer Stephen Boppart assisted members of the Class of 2024 as they put on their white coats, officially launching their medical careers. “Putting on the white coat surrounded by members of the medical and academic community is

a rite of passage for an aspiring physician… one that’s too important to cancel,” said Dean Li. “This group has already demonstrated a commitment to improving human health and changing the future of medicine, so we wanted them to have an opportunity to celebrate this important occasion in person, with family and friends,” Li said.

“With the pandemic, there have been a lot of milestones—personal, academic, and professional—that haven’t felt ‘real,’” said student Dara Nafiu. He and other classmates played an active role in public education efforts and COVID-19 vaccine advocacy among medically under-served populations. “Ceremonies like this one really solidify our accomplishments, and it’s even more special now that we’ve had a year to build friendships with other future physicians.”

Suzy Kwok, Class of 2024, Carle Illinois College of Medicine
Susanna Kwok

As part of the White Coat ceremony, students recited the Declaration of Geneva (also known as the Physician’s Pledge) administered by keynote speaker and Carle Illinois Medical Education Facilitator, Dr. Grace Park. Student Suzy Kwok said the pledge has special meaning, following a year in which she and her colleagues witnessed physicians being tested in unprecedented ways. “By acknowledging the tremendous work and sacrifices of healthcare professionals around the globe, we saw the extremes of what it means to live by the Pledge. Taking our pledge now means that we accept the challenges of medicine that we’ve already encountered and are willing to accept more, just like those who served the millions of patients with COVID-19,” Kwok said.

Members of the Class of 2024 will have ample opportunity to wear their coats, as they begin family medicine clerkships and rotations at the student-run clinic at Carle Health as part of the college’s commitment to providing rich, early clinical experience.

Editor’s note: Carle Illinois’ new class of 2025 will observe their White Coat Ceremony on Sunday, September 19, 2021, at the Alice Campbell Center on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus.