The members of the West Virginia University School of Medicine Class of 2017 will soon don the most significant symbol of their chosen profession – the white coat – for the first time.

On Saturday, March 21, the School of Medicine will hold its annual John W. Traubert White Coat Ceremony, during which the 102 students in the class will be presented with their white coats.

At WVU, the first White Coat Ceremony was held Jan. 26, 1996. Its tradition differs from the conventional concept, in that it honors second-year students and marks the transition from basic sciences to clinical sciences, from reading about illness and disease to diagnosing it, and from learning about treatments to prescribing them. The ceremony stresses the importance of the doctor-patient relationship and the relevance of the white coat as a cloak of compassion.

“This ceremony is an important milestone in the professional development of a physician,” said Norman Ferrari, M.D., vice dean for education and academic affairs and professor in the WVU Department of Medical Education. “It is the first time they will publicly recite the Oath of Hippocrates on their journey to becoming a physician and establishing a sacred trust with their patients to provide excellent care in a compassionate manner.”

Featured speaker will be WVU School of Medicine alumnus Marc Yester, M.D., a pediatric physician and senior practice manager with Pediatrics South in McMurray, Pa. Dr. Yester matriculated into the M.D. program as a WVU undergraduate in 2002 prior to graduating from the School of Medicine in 2006. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Wake Forest University.

A native of Morgantown and graduate of Morgantown High School, Yester was president of his medical school class and received the School of Medicine’s Young Alumnus Award in 2006. A WVU Foundation Scholar, he was also a member of Mountain Honorary, a diverse, service organization for student leaders and WVU’s highest ranking honorary society.

“I’m incredibly honored to speak at this year’s White Coat ceremony and relive that exciting time of medical school,” Yester said. “It really represents how we change the focus in the clinical years from the science of medicine to the art of patient care.”

Adriana Bonasso Cline, president of WVU’s Gold Humanism Honor Society, will also give remarks.

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation designed the White Coat Ceremony in 1993 to welcome entering medical students and help them to establish a psychological contract for the practice of medicine. The event emphasizes the importance of compassionate care for the patient as well as scientific proficiency. It has since been established at medical schools across the country.

WVU’s ceremony was named for John W. Traubert, M.D., former associate dean for student and curricular affairs at the WVU School of Medicine, who practiced family medicine in Wellsburg before joining the WVU faculty as founding chair of the Department of Family Practice, now the Department of Family Medicine. A reception follows the ceremony.

The event, to be held at 10 a.m. on March 21 at the Morgantown Event Center at Waterfront Place, will be linked via MDTV on WVU’s Charleston and Eastern campuses.