Watch the AMA's daily COVID-19 update, with insights from AMA leaders and experts about the pandemic.

AMA Chief Experience Officer Todd Unger talks with two medical education experts on showing recognition for medicine’s newest recruits and how medical schools are adapting during to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a preview of AMA's upcoming virtual white coat ceremony.

Learn more at the AMA COVID-19 resource center.


  • Kimberly Lomis, MD, vice president, UME Innovations, AMA
  • Isaac Kirstein, DO, dean, Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine

AMA COVID-19 Daily Video Update

AMA’s video collection features experts and physician leaders discussing the latest on the pandemic.

Unger: Hello, this is the American Medical Association's COVID-19 Update. Today, we're talking about entering the medical profession during a pandemic and AMA's upcoming virtual White Coat Ceremony to welcome medicine's newest recruits, including a sneak preview. I'm joined today by Dr. Kimberly Lomis AMA's Vice President of Undergraduate Medical Education Innovations in Nashville, Tennessee, and Dr. Isaac Kirstein, Dean of the Ohio University, Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. I'm Todd Unger, AMA's Chief Experience Officer in Chicago. Like most students across the country, first-year medical students are now beginning school in a very different way than they imagined. Dr. Lomis, let's talk a little bit about what is that experience going to look like for them?

Dr. Lomis: Sure, Todd. At the AMA, we're fortunate to work with schools all across the country as our partners in creating innovation in education. So we've been keeping in close touch with them as they struggle with all these disruptions. I think incoming students, no matter where they are, can expect to have a lot more online experiences, at least at first. And there are certainly limitations on the early clinical experiences that they typically would have, but, across the board, all of the schools are working, striving to recreate all of the training that they need to attain the competencies to care for patients. It will look a little different at one place versus another based on the geographical impact of the disease and the local circumstances. But the good news is there's lots of ways to get to the end and our educators are being very creative in finding those right opportunities for the new students.

Unger: Dr. Kirsten, you have your first years on campus for the first time today, talk about how your institution is welcoming them and any changes you've made in your approach this year?

Dr. Kirstein: Absolutely. It just like Dr. Lomis said, because of the nature of what's going on, we have to maximize the safety and the remote education of what we needed to do, but we still have to train physicians in person and have to bring them back. So the first two days of our orientation were new for us. They were very remote and the students were logged in and we did things that we had to do with that medium to make sure that they were as engaged as possible. But nothing replaces bringing them and today was the first day they walked through our doors, physically, and they were so excited to be here. They got to see our anatomy lab and begin with clinical skills. Using things like simulation to replace a lot of what we're doing early on. And other things like bringing in more actors as patients. Things that we can do safely in a more controlled environment to make sure that they get the best educational experience in this new environment.

Unger: Well, Dr. Lomis, part of the first-year experience traditionally has been the White Coat Ceremony. Can you talk about the significance of the White Coat Ceremony and how schools normally mark this milestone?

Dr. Lomis: Sure. The White Coat Ceremony is a rite of passage. In some ways it's acknowledging the tremendous work the students have had to put in to get this far. They've earned a spot in this class, it means they've earned a spot in this profession. And so in some ways it's acknowledging that and all of the people who wrapped around them to help them accomplish that. Their family, friends and other people, mentors who supported them through this journey. But at the same time, it's a way for the institution and the mentors to remind the students of the tremendous responsibilities of our profession. And so typically the white coat is placed over the shoulders by someone who is more senior as welcoming you into a shared commitment to care for patients and care for communities. So that physical part will be a little bit different for the students this year in many places, but the weight of the jacket should feel very much the same, that you're accepting a duty. Often the students will say for the first time a version of the Hippocratic Oath, because in the process of learning, they will be caring for patients. And so they need to understand those responsibilities.

Unger: Dr. Kirstein?

Dr. Kirstein: Yeah, it is a great time. It's one of our favorite ceremonies of the whole year. Usually there's not a dry eye in the house and we're looking forward to doing ours differently this year, but with the same weight and import that it has. Normally, we have a very large amount of mentors putting on a lot of coats in a big, crowded auditorium. And we can't do that this year. But what we're doing is making it very personal and all of our students will, from either myself or another one of the academic leaders, we will personally coat them. It'll be poignant. The pictures of them getting coated, we'll have a lot of masks on their faces. But we also recognize that an important part of this is recognizing and honoring the moment for all the people that brought the student to this point.

And so to be sure that we can share this with their families, we're actually doing the second half of the ceremony in November, virtually, where the family can then re-coat in a safe environment at home and online their own family member so that we can get both ends of that. The importance of the professional weight of the coat, as Dr. Lomis said, but also have that heartstring for the family and to recognize all the people that brought them there as well. It is a great ceremony and I look forward to seeing how it goes this year.

Unger: That sounds spectacular, Dr. Lomis, the AMA is going to try something new this year too, to recognize students in the White Coat Ceremony. Can you talk a little bit about what we're up to this year?

Dr. Lomis: Well, sure. Just in light of the challenges that the schools are facing, AMA saw the opportunity to step in and complement what is happening at individual campuses. And so we're hosting a virtual white coat celebration/ceremony tribute to the same extent to recognize the family and the community around the students, the students' hard work and their entry into the profession, which of course at the AMA, we want to represent these students. And so we brought together leaders at the national level, from the clinical realm, as well as the educational realm to speak to the students and inspire them. And, honestly, having seen the previews, it's going to inspire all of us, as did the graduation tribute that we did earlier this year. So I think all the students, not just the new ones, all the residents an their practicing faculty will find some inspiration boost in this activity.

Unger: Well, that virtual White Coat Ceremony is going to air tonight at seven o'clock central time on AMA's YouTube channel. If you'd like a little bit of a sneak preview, well, we've got one for you right here.

Leanna Knight: So what does the white coat mean to me?

Inderbir Bains: For me, the white coat represents knowing that I'm going to wake up every single day and improve the lives of others.

Thomas Pak: The white coat is a symbol of commitment, compassion, and care. It is a calling to do better. To better the health of the individual and our society.

Vijaya Dasari: To me, the white coat means advocating for my patients and taking on the responsibility to improve their health and wellness.

Manraj Sekhon: What the white coat means to me is being able to have the opportunity and privilege to care for my fellow human being, from the individual, family to the community level.

Calvin Schaffer: It signifies the humbling new weight of the responsibilities that I'm honored to start carrying with me as I begin my career in medicine.

Leanna Knight: My white coat reminds me not to get caught up in bias.

Unu Udoh: White coat to me means I'm now a steward of compassionate medicine. It signifies I have the tools to treat everyone equally in our health care system.

Katherine Holder: My white coat to me represents doing what's in the best interest of my patients at all times. Whether that be in clinic or in the legislative process, this is my commitment to helping them in any way possible.

Leanna Knight: My white coat is my purpose. My purpose to serve my patients.

Unger: We hope you'll tune in tonight and watch the AMA virtual White Coat Ceremony. One of our special guest is Dr. Kirstein. Can you follow up a little bit on what we just saw and why it's so important to honor and inspire incoming medical students right now?

Dr. Kirstein: It's a very unique time to join the health care profession. We have universally kept making the message about being the best time to come in. We've never had more clarity about the medical profession than right now. We've never had more clarity about what makes it great than when we see the physicians and other caregivers on the front lines, but we have also never had as much clarity as some of the equity issues that we have going on currently. And the problems that we have with insurance systems and all the health systems sciences that have to go into this. It's never been a clearer time to understand the challenges and the successes that our profession can have to bring. And we really are keeping our students excited about that. There's no abstraction anymore. It is clear what they're getting into. It's clear what we're training them to become. And it really is a great time to become a physician.

Unger: Dr. Kirstein, any particular advice you'd have for your incoming medical students right now?

Dr. Kirstein: Take care of themselves. It's just the old lifeguard mantra that they really do need to focus on their own wellness. It's a long journey and an important journey and to seek meaning. When you're in the weeds, always come back to remember why you're doing this. And a life of meaning in medicine is a wonderful career that'll keep you going and enjoy the ride. Because it is a great time, as challenging as it is, just stay above the fray. And it's about the patients. And then that's the reason why that everybody comes back to, and it will always guide you.

Unger: Dr. Lomis, how about you? Any final pieces of advice?

Dr. Lomis: Yeah, well, welcome to a tremendous profession. The AMA and specifically the med ed team will be here for you. I think the piece of advice that may be different from classes before is an emphasis for the students to recognize that there are always partners in the educational programming. We do a lot in education that is this collaboration. And so these students should be in close communication with their administration, keeping them informed about what is working, what's not, as the schools are trying to do their best job during this time of disruption. And I think the flexibility that these students will bring as they are willing to enter at a time like this allows them to be wonderful partners in making the education process as seamless as it can be given the circumstances. So we welcome them as future leaders, not only, clinically, but in educational world as well.

Unger: Well, thank you very much, Dr. Lomis and Dr. Kirstein for being here today, sharing your perspectives with us and helping us put together a very special event tonight, the virtual White Coat Ceremony from the AMA seven o'clock central time on the AMA's YouTube channel. So please take a look. If you missed our med student graduation ceremony from several months ago, it's been viewed more than a million times on YouTube and Facebook. Take a look at that too. We'll be back tomorrow with another COVID-19 update. For updated resources on COVID-19 visit Thanks for joining us and please take care.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed in this video are those of the participants and/or do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.

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