Medical School Class of 2020 Receives White Coats
The UA College of Medicine – Phoenix welcomed its 10th class, a group of 83 new medical students representing the Class of 2020. The Tucson medical school will host its white coat ceremony on July 29.

UA College of Medicine
July 18, 2016


Dr. Susan Kaib, interim associate dean for student affairs, helps first-year student Agnieszka Radziszewska as Dr. Cheryl O’Malley, interim vice dean of academic affairs, looks on.
Dr. Susan Kaib, interim associate dean for student affairs, helps first-year student Agnieszka Radziszewska as Dr. Cheryl O’Malley, interim vice dean of academic affairs, looks on. (Photo: Sun Czar Belous)

Eighty-three students symbolically entered the medical profession when they put on their white coats for the first time during ceremonies for the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix.

The event last Friday drew nearly 1,000 family members and friends for the rite of passage, as each new medical student in the Class of 2020 donned a coat.

The class is the 10th for the Phoenix campus, and its members will face challenges different from previous medical students, said Dr. Kenneth S. Ramos, interim dean of the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix. 

"Medicine is facing a dramatic shift, where leadership skills are going to be even more important," Ramos said. As a college, "we need to give our students not only knowledge and expertise, but prepare them for making the health care system work better. With the Affordable Care Act, the shifts in health care delivery and different health care platforms, they can make huge contributions."

In addition to their white coats, donated by 100 sponsors, students received their first textbook, "The Patient History: Evidence-Based Approach to Differential Diagnosis," courtesy of District Medical Group at Maricopa Integrated Health System. Class of 2020 members also received a stethoscope from Banner Health and a lapel pin from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation containing an inscription about humanism in medicine.

The College of Medicine – Phoenix was established as a way to ease the growing shortage of physicians in Arizona. In its nine years, it has graduated  273 physicians.

On July 29, the UA College of Medicine – Tucson will admit 135 students — its largest class. The 22nd white coat ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m. in Centennial Hall and will be streamed online at

Tucson's Class of 2020 includes a Navajo student who worked with Johns Hopkins University Center for American Indian Health to build communication with Native American patients, a graduate of the UA James E. Rogers College of Law who worked with immigration and family advocacy law and for the rights of indigenous people, and a graduate of the UA P-MAP (Pre-Medical Admissions Pathway) program whose family fled Kenya and lived in a refugee camp for 17 years.

Members of the incoming Phoenix class include Jaimei Zhang, who said she loves the feeling that comes with serving a patient. Zhang, a native of Gilbert, Arizona, graduated from the University of Washington with a biochemistry degree last spring.

Also a first-year medical student, Shanan Immel grew up in Chandler, Arizona, and studied microbiology at the UA in Tucson. The Phoenix resident sees his journey through medical school as an opportunity to increase visibility for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students interested in medicine and science.

Another is Benjamin McIntosh, who spent six years as a U.S. Navy corpsman, serving on the line with infantry and providing care to his platoon. During his service, McIntosh deployed twice to Iraq and was awarded various medals, including the Purple Heart.

Dario Alvarez, who graduated from the UA, completed the College’s Pathway Scholars Program, a one-year certificate of study designed for socio-economically disadvantaged college graduates. Pathway students are first-generation college attendees, members of a federally recognized American Indian tribe, from rural Arizona or are committed to serving the underserved and diverse populations of Arizona.

Alvarez said he couldn't believe it was his turn to put on a white coat.

"I'm so happy, nervous and excited to be here, and to share this moment with family, friends and mentors," Alvarez said, noting that while growing up he loved biology and science. He became motivated to do something for other people after helping his best friend battle leukemia.

Dr. Susan Kaib, faculty member and interim associate dean of student affairs, had words of advice for the incoming students during the Phoenix ceremony.

"Medical school is difficult. Take care of yourself and be there for each other," said Kaib, who earned her medical degree from the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. She talked about her own journey through medical school, and how a fellow student encouraged her to talk with a counselor when she was going through a trying time.

She encouraged the students to remember to be compassionate care givers: "As you learn all that science, don't forget the art of medicine."

Watch a video of incoming medical students speak about why they chose the UA:

Extra info

Photos of the ceremony are available online.