First step toward 'making a difference'

IRVINE — It felt like a graduation, but the students being honored had yet to earn a diploma. The ceremony was actually the first step.

Still, there was much to celebrate.

"Congratulations to all of you," said UC Irvine Chancellor Dr. Michael Drake. "The path to get here is a long one."

UCI's School of Medicine welcomed its newest batch of students into the fold with a White Coat Ceremony in front of family and friends Friday night at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

The students were introduced to their professors for the next four years before being helped into their first physician's coat and reciting the Medical Student Oath.

The 104 students were chosen out of a pool of 5,000 applicants from around the nation, said Dr. Ellena Peterson, associate dean of admissions and outreach.

Each student had a unique personality and story that earned them their spot, she said.

"Looking out there," she said, "I can safely say our future healthcare is in good hands — not now, but maybe in a few years."

For student Andrew Berg, 25, the road to medical school wasn't straight.

Initially an economics major, Berg said he liked the field and found it rewarding, but felt that something was missing. It wasn't until he started working in emergency rooms and clinics that he realized what that something was.

"I really fell in love with actually being able to see you're making a difference," he said.

The ceremony, though, wasn't just a chance to induct the students into the profession, but to present them with all the tools they would need to succeed.

Each student was given an iPad loaded with all their course materials for their first year of medical school, making them some of the first in the nation to have a completely digital curriculum, said Dr. Ralph Clayman, School of Medicine's dean

"In essence… all the knowledge you need to complete your first year is present and can fit in your coat pocket," he said.

The class of 2015 was the second wave of students to receive the computer tablets as part of the school's iMedEd Initiative, a move to become a fully digital education program.

Although the program's only been in use for one year, soft data already shows students outperforming to a small extent their peers without the benefit of an iPad, Clayman said.

The students will keep the iPads throughout the program and have it loaded with the textbooks every year, he said.

"They should not have to pay a nickel for textbooks," he said. "It's the first step on the path for us to create a tuition-free medical school."

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