White Coat Ceremony Caps an Eventful Semester for New Students

Their new white coats may be short but for 204 first semester students, the journey to receive them has been anything but.


Four months ago, first semester students had barely arrived to AUC when a category 5 hurricane hit Sint Maarten. Though strangers at the time, they banded together to ride out Irma—one of the strongest storms in recorded history—at their new medical school. After the storm, some students, like Moe Ameri, joined AUC’s medical team to tend to injuries; others like Bo Peng gathered food and resources; Jorge Granados inventoried and tracked critical supplies like food, water and fuel; and Nick Joassaint and Jean Dominique Foureau searched for students who hadn’t sheltered on campus. In just a few short but eventful days, this group of strangers became family.

That support and admiration for one another was on full display this Sunday, December 17th, as students in AUC’s September 2017 class were finally able to have their White Coat Ceremony. The event was originally scheduled for September 9th but had to be postponed after Hurricane Irma.

As a rite of passage, the White Coat Ceremony is traditionally held during the first week of medical school. But, as these students know, this semester at AUC has been anything but traditional. So, together in front of family, friends and members of AUC’s administration and faculty, students took to the stage to receive their white coats and recite an oath to uphold the tenets of medicine.

“This fall you had an experience that will no doubt leave a lasting imprint on your medical education and likely your entire life,” said Dr. Heidi Chumley, Executive Dean of AUC. “Maybe you are a little bit different from the person you were at the beginning of the semester. As we put this white coat on you, think about what it means. Enjoy the positive feelings and accept the duty that comes with it. We your deans and your faculty believe in you.”

AUC students at White Coat Ceremony

The ceremony was held at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, UK, where AUC is temporarily holding its September semester. Students have been taking classes at the northern English city since September 29th but will return to Sint Maarten in January to continue their studies.

Speaking at the ceremony was AUC alumna Dr. Faith Dillard (Class of 1999). During her studies at AUC in Montserrat, a volcano erupted forcing the school to relocate to Sint Maarten. Shortly after, Hurricane Luis, a category 4 storm, hit the island. Having gone through those experiences and now as a seasoned emergency physician, Dr. Dillard was able to provide perspective and encouragement.  

“Hurricane Irma has changed you forever; you are now part of a special breed of physician tested by the raw force of Mother Nature,” said Dr. Dillard. “You own a story, one that is epic, unique, and rare. Your path from here can be one that can make you better if you hold onto your memories, embrace them and make them work for you. There is no formal education that could have prepared me for my job or my life the way AUC prepared me, and I wouldn’t change a thing."

One by one, students made their way on stage, placing their arms inside of their new coats. As each name and undergraduate university was called, a clearer picture emerged of how diverse and special this class is. While each student is unique and different, they now share a common story—one that is part of AUC’s history.

“Finally receiving my white coat, I felt so many different emotions,” said first semester student and class representative Moe Ameri. “I’m proud to reach this milestone but more importantly, I’m reminded that this is merely the beginning of a long journey—one that will require me to constantly improve and challenge myself so that I can be my best version of myself when I wear my white coat.”

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