Saturday was the WVU School of Medicine’s John W. Traubert White Coat Ceremony – an emotional, inspirational, and energizing experience for students, families, faculty members, and me.

The event is a symbolic rite of passage for medical students as they transition from the classroom to the clinic. Saturday’s ceremony – an important milestone on the journey to the practice of medicine – highlighted talented students, who were surrounded by proud parents and a number of white-coated faculty members. What a sight to see: a long gold-and-blue line of physicians preceding medical students, the line of physicians who will follow.

We were privileged to see the students’ emotions – their joy, their anxiety, their enthusiasm – and to share their dreams. Dreams for the future, dreams for their lives, and dreams for their profession. Their parents, so proud, are also dreaming of their children's place in this new world (and maybe of the end of many years of tuition). We dream how they might change the future of our state, our citizens, and our University.

I sat in the same place as those students not so long ago. It’s as if I blinked my eyes, and then I was welcoming them into the practice of medicine. Familiar faces from my medical school class assembled to receive the current class into the history of the WVU School of Medicine.

The white coats also bear the Flying WV, the connection to West Virginia University. The Flying WV and the white coat symbolize the relationship between medicine and science – between "high touch" and "high tech." While science is moving at a dizzying pace, the adage presented by Francis Peabody in 1925 still applies:

“For the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.”

We hope each student dreams big and dares to change everything.

Before pride. Before recognition. There is First. The First thought. The First step. The First breakthrough. At WVU, we are determined to go first. It's in our blood. It's in our sweat. And, it's in our nature. Here, going first means we're bold enough to DREAM BIG. To take risks. It's why we go to the edge, and instead of going back – we build a bridge and we keep going. So that we will go above, to go beyond. And when everyone else goes back, Mountaineers GO FIRST.

So we hope each student will dream big, dare to climb the highest mountain, and invite others to join them on their adventures. And when they finish their climb and reach the pinnacle, like pioneers, they plant a beacon to light the way for the next generation of white coats displaying the Flying WV – the next generation, ready change the world.