EVERETT — Beaming with pride and donning smiles that even masks couldn’t hide, 27 first-year students of Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine took the first step in their journey as medical professionals on Friday.
During an unconventional, three-hour drive-thru ceremony, students from WSU’s Everett and Vancouver campuses were honored one at a time with their white coats, signifying the beginning of their careers.
“Introducing brand-new medical student …” the emcee said over the sounds of midday traffic from Broadway. Car horns from family members nearby often replaced applause, but the distance didn’t take away from the moment.
“This white coat is basically representing our family,” said Miriam Al-Saedy. A first-generation college student, Al-Saedy, 22, said the ceremony was a big deal for her parents who immigrated to the United States more than 25 years ago as refugees during the Iraq war.
“It really was a monumental moment to finally be at this stage, I’ve worked so hard all these past years, to finally be up there with my family was very nice,” she said.
Traditionally, the coating ceremony is held in a Spokane theater as hundreds of family and friends gather to celebrate the achievements of 80 students from all four of WSU’s campuses in Spokane, Tri-Cities, Everett and Vancouver. This year, staff got creative to ensure the occasion was still commemorated.
“It is an enormous milestone in the life of a student becoming a physician,” said Larry Schecter, associate dean of clinical education and head of the WSU clinical campus in Everett. “We decided to do it the best way we possibly could and safest way we possibly could.”
Schecter, along with Judi Marcin, the associate dean of clinical education at WSU’s Vancouver campus, congratulated and coated each student on a pop-up stage as families watched from their cars. Groups were then pointed to an area for photos that included a cardboard cutout of the dean of WSU’s College of Medicine, John Tomkowiak. Speakers including Tomkowiak then addressed the first-year students during a virtual ceremony Friday night.
While it certainly wasn’t the ceremony Al-Saedy had anticipated, she is thankful it occurred at all.
“It is kind of interesting to have that personalized unique experience for our class, that will be nice to remember as we go into our career,” she said.
Like the ceremony, learning for the class of 2024 will also begin online. Schecter said it will be different and that there was plenty of disappointment, but that the pivot online will provide the same education or as close to it as possible.
For her part, Al-Saedy aspires to be a change maker in healthcare and is just ready to learn.
The Cascade High School and University of Washington graduate worked as a comfort volunteer at the Providence Medical Center and is eager to get started working with the diverse community in Snohomish County however possible.
“This switch really helps show that even through difficult times like the pandemic, the world doesn’t stop,” Al-Saedy said. “We still need people to work as physicians, so that means we have to adapt to a different format to achieve that.”
Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; email@example.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.
Ian Davis-Leonard reports on working class issues through Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. To support Ian’s work at The Daily Herald with a tax-deductible donation, go to www.heraldnet.com/support.