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Paging Dr. Tomorrow: 177 future physician leaders enter U-M Medical School

Incoming class of medical students enter the profession with leadership training and White Coat ceremony

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — With American health care poised on the brink of its largest change in decades, 177 students started down the path to becoming doctors this month at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Chosen from nearly 5,400 applicants, and coming from 26 states, they all have a history of strong academic achievements.

They now all have short white coats and new stethoscopes, given to them by alumni in the White Coat ceremony on their first day of medical school, an event steeped in tradition and symbolism.

But they also share something else: the potential to be leaders of the medical profession and health care community.

Through a new partnership with U-M’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business, all the new medical students will receive training that goes beyond anatomy, physiology and other traditional subjects. They will learn how to work with others to lead change, helping set them on a course that will continue through their careers.

More information:

  • As this new class enters, the Medical School has embarked on a major effort to improve our space for medical students. Learn more here. 
  • A photo gallery of selected images from the White Coat Ceremony is below.

U-M is the first medical school to give all its students this kind of training, which will prepare them to be the impactful change agents that American health care will need in the coming decades.

“For more than 160 years, our school has graduated some of the highest-achieving physicians in the country, and many of our alumni have gone on to lead large practices and hospitals, medical schools, companies, professional societies, government agencies and major research initiatives,” says Rajesh Mangrulkar, M.D., associate dean for medical student education at the U-M Medical School. “But this new training, which will continue throughout their four years, will equip our students with the specific leadership skills that will help them achieve even more.”

The new students kicked off their leadership training in a couple of unusual and lighthearted ways.

First, they began to understand their individual leadership tendencies, participating in a workshop on “Competing Values” by Jeff DeGraff, a clinical professor at the Ross School of Business. Then, the students were assigned into one of four teams, and engaged in a “MedChef” cooking contest, a competition to prepare meals (along with a marketing and communication strategy) that were then judged by faculty and alumni.

They may have looked like a couple of fun orientation-week events, but they were specifically designed to test the medical students’ organizational, leadership and management skills.

Erin McKean, M.D., who is helping direct the Leadership Initiative, says, “In the first year, we’ll be focusing on building productive teams,what it means to be a team member and respecting the skills and values that other people bring to the table. In phase two, we’ll go on to health care systems, including health policy, economics and finance. In the last phase, students will be planning and executing change, which is something that health leaders do every day.” McKean is a clinical assistant professor of otolaryngology and is just about to graduate with her MBA from Ross.

Starting leadership training in the first weeks on campus, and continuing it through the four years of medical school, will help ensure that students can continue to hone their skills, she said.

But before they embarked on that path, the students first took part in the annual White Coat Ceremony, held since the 1990s as a formal welcome to the medical profession.

Before an audience of nearly 1,000 family members, faculty and alumni at U-M’s Hill Auditorium, the students each received their first white coat and stethoscope, funded in part by members of the U-M Medical Center Alumni Society. Some had their coats – the cloak of their future profession -- draped on them by family members who also graduated from medical school at Michigan, or who are current faculty here.

Each student also received a pin provided by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, a public foundation dedicated to fostering humanism in medicine. The pin symbolizes a shared commitment to providing compassionate and competent patient care.

Here are some more facts about the incoming class of U-M medical students:

  • The number of applicants grew more than 2 percent since last year
  • Only 657 of the 5,392 applicants were asked to come for an interview
  • 55 percent are from Michigan; the rest are from 26 states
  • Their undergraduate degrees are from 68 different institutions, including 14 in Michigan
  • The class is virtually evenly split among men and women
  • They have an average GPA of 3.78 and average total MCAT score of 34.2
  • Two-thirds of them come from a science background, but a full one-third had non-science undergraduate majors, higher than in previous years.
  • Nearly 11 percent of the class comes from groups that are underrepresented in medicine
  • The students range in age from 20 to 36, with an average age just under 24 years
  • 13 students were accepted to the prestigious Medical Scientist Training Program, and will study toward both an M.D. and a Ph.D. degree while at Michigan


More information:

  • A photo gallery of selected images from the White Coat Ceremony is below.

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