In a break with tradition that served to showcase the School of Medicine’s increasingly diverse population, first-year students entered the large white tent at their induction service this weekend to the energetic tones of blaring trumpets and vibrant strings of mariachi music.
The festive genre, selected by student leaders from the class of 2023 – known as the most diverse cohort ever at the UC Davis medical school – replaced the sounds of solemn bagpipes that had been a mainstay for decades.
The upbeat Mexican music at the processional and recessional helped maintain the joyous atmosphere Saturday morning when speakers at the podium congratulated the 123 students and reminded them of their great responsibility in training to be medical doctors.
Keynote speaker Micaela Godzich, a UC Davis Health family medicine physician and School of Medicine assistant professor, told a poignant story about how she thought the admissions office had made a mistake when she matriculated in medical school because she didn’t feel worthy of having been chosen.
“Some of you might be feeling something a little similar, so my job, here, today, is to tell you that no mistake was made. We’ve read thousands of applications and we chose you,” Godzich said.
“You look like the best that this country has to offer,” she added, to loud applause from hundreds of friends and family in attendance. “We know who you are, we know what you’ve done, and we know what you can do – and we chose you, so no mistake has been made.”
And Godzich made bold predictions about the future doctors:
- One of them, she said, will one day prescribe medicine to a 3-year-old that will enable them to have a fourth birthday.
- One of them will remove a brain tumor and allow someone to live without seizures.
- One of them will transform how medical care is delivered, “so that we are one step closer to providing excellent care to everyone regardless of their means and their abilities.”
Godzich recalled how her mother made a “leap of faith” in immigrating from Trinidad to train as a scholar in the United States. Godzich told the students that they, too, have made a leap of faith into medical school.
Senior student speaker Jasmeen Visla, in her fourth year of medical education, welcomed the new class and made sure each person understood that, “out of 7,000 applicants, we chose you.”
She challenged students “to believe in yourself, to believe in your talents, your creativity and the same drive that got you here today.”
Allison Brashear, the new dean at the School of Medicine, explained the significance of the stethoscope, a medical device that each student received on the stage as part of the School of Medicine’s welcome.
While a stethoscope is an acoustic device to listen to the inside of the body, Brashear said, being a good doctor takes more than tools. She encouraged students to listen to their patients, “not just with your ears, but with your heart.”
“We hope that the stethoscope that you are about to receive, and every one you will use throughout your career, will help you listen to your patients better. Listen to their stories, listen to their struggles, their fears and their challenges. And listen so that you can bond with them and help them find their way.”
After students received their stethoscopes from faculty members, they all read in unison the Medical Student Pledge of Ethics.
And they heard from a selection of students who recited the pledge in 10 languages.
The Class of 2023 is 64 percent female, and 46 percent of students belong to underrepresented minority groups: 23 are African American, 30 are Latinx, two are Native American and two are Native Hawaiian.