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UMass Med. Students: From the Classroom to the Clinic

Friday, March 09, 2012


In a ceremony held inside Worcester’s Mechanics Hall, medical students at the University of Massachusetts Medical School took their next step toward becoming physicians.

 The ceremony was held for second-year medical students to recite an oath that would officially move them from students to working interns. The Second-Year Oath Ceremony is a tradition at UMass Medical, designed to show students that medicine is not only biological science, but also a humanistic, ethical and moral undertaking.

 The Dean of the School of Medicine, Dr. Terrence Flotte, welcomed students, and informed them that he too would be taking the oath. He reminded them that serving the patient and their family is their biggest responsibility, even in times of chaos.

 “We must constantly strive to be more patient oriented,” Flotte said. “It’s easy when things are slow, but when you are under fire, that is when you must remember your oath.”

 The ceremony also included an address by Dr. Christina H. Hernon, an assistant professor of emergency medicine. Dr. Hernon was chosen by students to be the keynote speaker because she is a professor that is viewed as a mentor to members of the class. She too championed the virtues of patient care, but reminded students that patients sometimes just need to feel like their doctor is listening.

Dr. Christina Hernon delivering the keynote address.

“In the modern world of medicine, patients are left feeling like they have been caught in the medical machine,” Hernon said. “Most people feel like their doctors are perfectly competent, but that they can’t be rushed or bothered. To a patient, even little interactions can be important. They just want to be seen.”

 The oath varies from year to year, but always aims to affirm the students’ commitment to upholding the principles of their profession. Each year a committee of students is chosen to collectively write the oath for the entire class. The ceremony’s timing is not by accident either, as each student now has some experience in clinical settings, allowing them to better reflect on what being a physician means to them.

 “Last year we had a class where students wrote down what they thought should be in the oath,” Reza Hosseini Ghomi, a student on the oath committee said. “So we took those and tried to come up with common themes all based on patient care.”

 Along with patient care, this year’s oath emphasized intellectual curiosity and teamwork. It also stressed that the physician is only one actor in the larger scheme of medical care, and that each patient should be treated with the empathy and care one would treat a family member with.

“I will enter the doctor-patient relationship as an equal partner,” the oath states. “Caring for the whole person unconditionally.”

The 125 students from the class of 2014 taking the oath were almost all from the Commonwealth, barring a few dual-degree students. The ceremony also presented several faculty members with “Outstanding Educator” awards. But, with the ceremony now finished, the real work is about to begin for these aspiring doctors.

“I’m really excited to be getting out of the classroom and start seeing patients and doing the things I came to medical school for,” Lauren Bedrosian said. “Before I got into medical school, I was sick with a chronic illness, and I learned a lot about being sick in the medical community. So, I really wanted to help people by leading them through that.”


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