UA Med Schools Hold White Coat Ceremonies
In separate events, first-year students in Tucson and Phoenix put on the traditional symbol of a physician and prepare for the academic rigors ahead.
A total of 200 students, comprising the Class of 2021 at the University of Arizona's Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix, received their white coats — the defining symbol of a physician — in two ceremonies last Friday.
The traditional White Coat Ceremony took place at Centennial Hall in Tucson and Symphony Hall in Phoenix. A record 7,218 applications were received for the Tucson class, but only 120 students (less than 2 percent) were accepted.
After working as an emergency medical technician, Lorna Rapaich of the Navajo Nation continued to pursue her dream of becoming a physician by applying to the Pathway Scholars Program at the College of Medicine – Phoenix. The one-year program is for Arizona residents who desire to pursue a career in medicine but have greater-than-average educational or economic challenges in preparing to become a competitive medical school applicant.
Rapaich graduated as a Pathway Scholar in May and will now enter the College of Medicine – Phoenix as a first-year medical student.
"My dad passed away a couple years ago and he always wanted me to finish school," she said. "Being a first-generation college student and graduating from Arizona State University was a big accomplishment in itself, but to be here, in the Pathway Scholars Program, he would have been really excited and proud of me. As for my mom, I know that she is beyond proud and happy for me. I'm just so grateful that after all this time, I am able to achieve my goals."
Rapaich was born in Tuba City, Arizona, but grew up in Phoenix and graduated from North Canyon High School. Immediately after high school, she joined the U.S. Army, where she served for six years. Three of those years were spent in Seoul, South Korea, where she met her husband. The two have been married for 13 years and have two sons.
Growing up, Rapaich always was interested in health care, but she had been exposed only to the nursing profession. In high school, she never planned for college. Her focus was on finishing high school and living on her own. During her service in the Army, she became a pharmacy specialist and interacted with several health care entities. Her work in that environment led her to return to school after she was out of the Army.
Originally, she attended community college to pursue a pharmacy career. Her plans changed, however, when she became an EMT for Ajo Ambulance, caring for the underserved in the Tohono O'odham Nation. Ajo does not have a health care facility, and the closest hospital is more than an hour's drive away, in Sells, Arizona.
White Coat highlight video for the Class of 2021, College of Medicine – Phoenix
Rapaich found the isolation and limited care she could provide to patients frustrating, and she wanted to be able to do more. She realized she wanted to become a physician.
"This opportunity means everything to me," she said. "When you're faced with one obstacle after another, and with all odds against you, it's hard to believe that you will ever reach your goals. And then you hear about this (Pathway Scholars) program, and then you start to believe that your dreams could actually become a reality. Not only is this program a pathway to medical school, but it also gives me the skills I need to succeed here. The support here is completely different than anything I have ever experienced in my education."
Rapaich recalled watching the Class of 2020's White Coat Ceremony. She said it was inspiring to see everything the class had accomplished and to know that she was headed in the same direction. She knew that one day she would be wearing a white coat, too.
"I am excited to have my family here to watch as I officially become a medical student at the College of Medicine – Phoenix," she said.
The College of Medicine – Tucson class also has a number of inspiring stories, including those of:
- Aaron Bia, a Navajo student whose grandfather is a medicine man. Bia completed two UA Health Sciences medical and research training programs, BLAISER and Pre-Medical Admissions Pathway, or P-MAP, earning a master's degree in cellular and molecular medicine from the UA.
- Joshua Gormley, a married father of four, who sold his home and ownership of a real estate/residential construction company to fulfill his passion for medicine.
- Maya Sarihan, Miss India America 2014, a classical Indian dancer/singer and a UA graduate whose mother is a pediatrician and whose two sisters are alumnae of the College of Medicine – Tucson.
- Siddhant Talwar, a UA graduate, who was born with beta thalassemia, a blood disorder that reduces the production of hemoglobin, an iron-containing protein in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to cells throughout the body. People with the disorder are at an increased risk of developing abnormal blood clots and life-threatening anemia. Talwar and his family started a foundation to raise awareness and provide resources for others.
- Beverley Trutter, who was born in Zimbabwe and moved away from her family to the U.S. to pursue her passion for medicine. She has a master's degree in public health from the UA and was admitted into the P-MAP program, where she earned a master's in cellular and molecular medicine.
- Phillip Belone, a Navajo student and UA graduate whose volunteer experience at a Tucson urgent care facility in high school led to his decision to become a physician.
- Joshua Paree, a UA graduate who is the first in his family to graduate from college and who changed majors from ecology and evolutionary biology to neuroscience after his coursework introduced him to human physiology — and he realized the opportunity medicine provided to help people.
White Coat highlight video for the Class of 2021, College of Medicine – Tucson
UA College of Medicine – Phoenix Class of 2021:
- Applications received: 4,721
- Students accepted into program: 80
- Arizona residents: 62 students (78 percent of class)
- Average GPA: 3.75
- Average science GPA: 3.68
- Graduated from UA: 27
- By gender: 60 percent female, 40 percent male
UA College of Medicine – Tucson Class of 2021:
- Applications received: 7,218
- Students accepted into program: 120
- Arizona residents: 80 students (69 percent of class)
- Average GPA: 3.64
- Average science GPA: 3.54
- Graduated from UA: 50
- By gender: 52.5 percent male, 47.5 percent female
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