UGHE’s School of Medicine 2nd White Coat Ceremony: Medical Students Urged to Uphold Equity and Social Justice in their Practice

UGHE’s School of Medicine hosted its second White Coat ceremony for the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery / Master of Science in Global Health Delivery (MBBS/MGHD) class of 2026 on November 9, 2022, at Butaro Campus. The ceremony recognized 36 medical students who transitioned from pre-clinical to clinical education. 

A Cordial Welcome 

At the opening of the white coat ceremony, Dr. Natalie  McCall, Chair of Division of Clinical Medicine congratulated the students,  calling them to embrace collaboration as a tool that will help them achieve equity in health care delivery. “Remember that medicine, as it is at its core, is collaborative. I hope you will continue to collaborate with others. I hope you remember that on this new journey, you’re not alone but you’re surrounded by a team that will help you to become the amazing doctor that you were all dreaming of when you entered.” said Dr. Natalie McCall. 

Dr. Robert Ojiambo, Chair of Division of Basic Medical Sciences encouraged the students to maintain the ethics acquired in class as they embark on their clinical studies. “As you proceed to the next phase of your clinical education, maintain the scientific ethics we are training you. Let us all honor the memory of our dearly departed chancellor, Dr. Paul Farmer in everything we do.” 

In his address, Professor Abebe Bekele, UGHE’s Dean of the School of Medicine encouraged students to always reflect the values of equity and social justice towards their patients and encouraged them to maintain their hard work and commitment which have brought them where they are.  

“The white coat represents one of the most important moments in your profession and this comes with great responsibility and great satisfaction. Always see your patients through the lenses of equity and social justice. Respect them, handle yourself professionally and with dignity”. 

Advocating for Patients 

Dr. Joia Mukherjee,  Chief Medical Officer of Partners In Health delivered a powerful keynote. She urged the students to always be equitable in their profession advocating for vulnerable patients. 

“We want you to take the side of vulnerable patients. That is what equity is about as we commemorate this incredible, wonderful occasion. We are the “E” representing Equity at UGHE, in the clinics and the communities. You are representing a movement for health and social justice.” 

The ceremony also featured the address from the Interim Vice Chancellor, Dr. Joel Mubiligi who reminded the students of the meaning of the white coat and encouraged them to embrace collaboration to better serve the patients.  

“The white coat symbolizes purity, professionalism, and trust.  Purity in our scientific curiosity, our intention to do good, and our commitment to treat every human life as sacred. Our late friend, mentor, and Founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, used to sing with you, “ you are young, gifted, and black.” Yes, you are young, gifted, and unique.” 

Expanding Curiosity to Better Serve the Patients 

On-demand of the students, the White Coat Ceremony welcomed Dr. Francoise Mukagaju, Junior Consultant and General Surgeon at King Faisal Hospital soon to become the first plastic surgeon in Rwanda to offer professional career advice on their special moment.  

She encouraged the students to expand their curiosity to learn new skills necessary to support vulnerable patients. “Whenever you focus on your destination as future physicians, you will achieve your dreams and make great impacts in the lives of people. As a doctor, think about your patients and work hard to gain the skills necessary to satisfy their needs” 

Dr. Sheila Davis, Chief Executive Officer of Partners In Health together with the PIH global Executive Leaders joined the event to celebrate this milestone. Dr. Sheila encouraged the students to be good listeners to their patients and have compassion for the most vulnerable. 

“We need to be active listeners. Listening intently to the patients, their families, and the community. Ask the “WHYs” so we can address the social determinants of health. Along with the white coat, you have got a stethoscope, one of the most powerful tools that will give you some of the critical information that you need to help treat your patients who are in their most vulnerable states.” 

Committed to Serve the Communities 

The students were presented with their white coats and then received their stethoscopes, an iconic symbol of the physical connection between a medical professional and a patient. They took a medical pledge to treat patients with respect and compassion while caring for the most vulnerable. 

Kevin Shimwa Gakuba, MBBS class of 2026, representing the class, underscored their commitment to humanity and health equity in his well-expressed speech. He said, “Always remember that our vision which is also UGHE’s vision is to advance quality health care to the most vulnerable.” 

UGHE’s White Coat Ceremony is a special ceremony to mark medical students entrance into medical practice as apprentices. The first White Coat Ceremony at UGHE was held in December 2021 at Butaro Campus for the inaugural medical (MBBS) class of 2025.  The students practice their clinical rotations at Butaro District Hospital and Kirehe District Hospital where Partners In Health (Inshuti Mu Buzima) operates under the supervision of their medical faculty.

Watch Full Recording

Meet MBBS Class of 2026 students