Diversity is dapper as LI med students don white coats

The white coats are coming: Zucker School of Medicine faculty member Lauren Block helps new medical student Fatimah Mozawalla into her ceremonial white coat.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

They’ve put them on – and, they’re off!

The ninth-ever class at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell has donned its white coats and embarked on its four-year journey to professional medicine. The members of the Class of 2023 received their ceremonial coats Oct. 11 at Hofstra University’s John Cranford Adams Playhouse, symbolically beginning their medical educations.

In reality, the 103 students have already begun their scholastic quests: While similar white-coat ceremonies are held at medical schools around the country – Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine held its wardrobe welcoming in August – Zucker School students don’t earn theirs until they’ve completed their first course and emergency medical training.

Lawrence Smith: Any doctors in the house?

That makes them not only students, according to the school, but “colleagues in medicine.”

“My job, and our job as faculty, is to help you to grow into that person called a ‘doctor,’” Zucker School of Medicine Dean Lawrence Smith, also an executive VP and physician-in-chief at Northwell Health, told the new trainees. “That’s what we celebrate today.”

The Zucker School’s Class of 2023 is a particularly diverse group, with the school noting “a blend of socioeconomic backgrounds, including nearly 50 women and 20 ethnically underrepresented” students.

That includes first-generation collegian Jonathan Guevara, whose parents escaped the political unrest of their native El Salvador for a better life in the United States.

“For me, receiving my white coat represents that my parents’ sacrifices haven’t been in vain,” noted Guevara, who earned his undergraduate degree at Hofstra. “I wonder how difficult it must have been to start fresh in a country where they didn’t speak the language or have connections.”

Their bravery certainly resonated: Speaking the language and making connections were key factors in Guevara’s decision to pursue medicine, according to the Hempstead resident.

I made the choice to become a doctor after recognizing that there was a huge demand for Spanish-speaking physicians in the United States,” he added. “I hope to bridge the gap between the Latino and medical community by serving as an ambassador to both.”

Erin Lavin: Mother load.

Similar tales of diversity and personal achievement filled SBU’s Student Activities Center in August, when the Renaissance School welcomed the 136 members of the university’s 49th matriculated medical class.

Renaissance School Dean Kenneth Kaushansky, SBU’s senior vice president of health sciences, trumpeted the most diverse incoming class to date: 53 percent women, 21 percent from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds and 17 percent from historically-underrepresented-in-medicine groups.

Among them: first-year medical student Erin Lavin, who was born at Stony Brook University Hospital, graduated Wantagh High School and hopes her full-circle endeavor inspires her 1-year-old daughter.

“I felt like I could aspire to the ideals of the profession (when I put on the white coat),” Lavin noted. “I can actively dismiss harmful ideas about women, or being a mother in medicine.

“You can do both,” she added. “Other mothers should feel empowered to choose this path, if they want to.”