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10 medical students stand on stage wearing white coats. Faculty members and special guests stand behind the students.

Members of the Medicine Class of 2027 were cloaked in their white coats in groups of 10 at Inaugural Exercises.

‘Be the future that we need,’ physician urges new UM medical students

August 24, 2023 — 

This year’s new medical students at UM have lived through the struggles of a pandemic. But they still show a passionate drive to care for others, a prominent Manitoba physician said at the students’ official welcome ceremony on Aug. 23.

Dr. Joss Reimer, the public health expert who led the province’s COVID-19 vaccination taskforce, gave the Alan Klass Memorial Address during Inaugural Exercises for the Medicine Class of 2027, held at the Brodie Centre on the Bannatyne campus.

Dr. Joss Reimer speaks at a lectern. On the lectern are the words "University of Manitoba" and the UM logo.

Dr. Joss Reimer

She thanked the 125 future doctors – the largest medical class in UM history – for choosing health careers.    

“The last few years have been challenging for all of us, and despite the challenges that you’ve seen in the health-care system … you chose to dedicate yourselves to serving your community; to taking care of patients,” Reimer said. “You saw how hard things have been, and you thought, ‘I want to be part of the solution.’

“You have chosen this profession because you care.… Don’t let medicine change you. Instead, change medicine. Be the future that we need.” 

Reimer, an alumna and part-time faculty member of the Max Rady College of Medicine, is the chief medical officer and lead of medical services for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. She has been elected national president of the Canadian Medical Association and will start her term in May 2024.

She urged the physicians-in-training to “embrace the unexpected” on their career paths. Doctors, she said, can serve communities and change the world not only through direct patient care, but in areas such as academia, research, advocacy and government.

“Each and every one of you can make a difference,” she said.

The Inaugural Exercises, attended by a large crowd of students’ family members and other supporters, included the White Coat Ceremony, in which the students were formally cloaked in their first white coats, and the recitation of the Physician’s Pledge.

Dr. Peter Nickerson, dean of the Max Rady College of Medicine and the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, said the college strives for a student body that reflects the diversity of Manitoba’s population. In the Class of 2027, he noted, 53 of the 125 students consider themselves to be members of a visible minority.

Diversity on health-care teams enables professionals to share perspectives and learn from one another, Nickerson said. It also benefits patients.

“When patients engage with a health-care professional with whom they can identify, there is an increased level of comfort and a feeling that they will be heard and understood,” he said.

Portrait of Jeannette Comte.

Jeannette Comte

Francophone student Jeannette Comte, 22, grew up in Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, Man., and will earn her medical degree in the college’s bilingual stream. Her goal is to become a rural physician who cares for francophone patients.

“It’s really important for me to practise medicine in French,” Comte said after the ceremony. “I work at an old folks’ home, and I really see that the francophone residents’ care is better when they’re with someone who speaks the same first language.”

Portrait of Kiana Tait.

Kiana Tait

Kiana Tait, a 23-year-old Cree woman, is one of 10 Indigenous students in the class. She recalls receiving encouragement during high school through attending a health career camp at UM for northern students.

Tait plans to return as a doctor to Norway House Cree Nation, the reserve where she was raised. During the ceremony, she said, she was thinking of her family and community members who were watching via livestream.

She dreams of seeing more First Nations people who grow up on reserves becoming physicians. “I hope being here, getting my white coat, inspires others to do the same,” she told CBC News.

Portrait of Jessica and Jeffrey Li.

Jessica and Jeffrey Li

Jessica Li, a 23-year-old student of Chinese heritage who grew up in Brandon, said donning the white coat made entering medicine suddenly feel real. “I was like, ‘Whoa, this is happening for real. I’m going to be a doctor!’ Reciting the pledge gave me goosebumps.”  

Li’s 22-year-old brother, Jeffrey, is also a member of the Class of 2027. He said the encouraging words of the alumni who spoke at the ceremony were reassuring. As for receiving his white coat, “I felt honoured, grateful, happy and excited for the next four years.”

Watch an Instagram Reel recapping the Inaugural Exercises for the Medicine Class of 2027.


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