The Foster School of Medicine celebrated its thirteenth White Coat Ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 28, when 125 students – its largest class to date – were welcomed as future health care heroes into the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso family.
The white coat ceremony is a rite of passage welcoming new students into the challenging but rewarding health care field. The most important element of the ceremony is the oath that students take to acknowledge and reaffirm their choice to serve patients and deliver compassionate care.
Medical students of the class of 2025 were presented with white coats sponsored by generous donations from the community, and a match for half the white coats from Dr. Dionicio Alvarez and Mrs. Alice Alvarez. Dr. Alvarez, a kidney specialist who practices in El Paso, and his wife have been long-time supporters of TTUHSC El Paso. They have contributed to the Foster School of Medicine’s Infinity Campaign and donated $250,000 matched by TTUHSC El Paso for a $500,000 endowment. Since 2017, they have been major sponsors of white coats for incoming Foster School of Medicine students.
At their recent endowment announcement, Mrs. Alvarez reflected on the couple’s journey in medicine, their family, and the calling new medical students have felt to join the health care field.
“As long as we can, we will continue supporting TTUHSC El Paso. I just want to thank you all and tell you not to forget: compassion, compassion, compassion. Do not forget the reason you went into medicine: to help humanity. Thank you for choosing this career. It’s a difficult one, but you can do it. I know you can do it.”
Medical students were just as contemplative as they received their white coats.
“When I decided to pursue medicine, I didn’t fully understand the extent of this commitment,” said Amanda Alfsen, incoming medical student and Foster School of Medicine Summer Medical Camp alumna. “Throughout this journey, I’ve just taken it step-by-step and day-by-day. Receiving this white coat has given me the opportunity to look back at the work and effort that brought me here today. The class of 2025 is extremely grateful to the Foster School of Medicine and its donors for giving us the opportunity to learn from and serve El Paso. As a native El Pasoan, it’s very special for me to receive my white coat in my own community.”
Near the ceremony’s conclusion, TTUHSC El Paso President and Dean of the Foster School of Medicine Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A., was honored with a video tribute for his support of students and the White Coat Ceremony. The Lange family has continually donated white coats in honor of Richard J. Lange, the late father of Dr. Lange.
“Everything you learn over the next four years will be pivotal in your direct role in patient care for the rest of your life,” said Dr. Lange. “Today you’re going to pledge a commitment to serve humanity and affirm the opportunity you have to make change in the world. The white coat we wear is not a superhero cape, but a symbol of your commitment to take the best care of each other, your classmates, patients and community.”
TTUHSC El Paso is one of only two health sciences centers designated as Title V Hispanic-Serving Institutions – and the only one on the U.S.-Mexico border — preparing the next generation of health care heroes, with 50% of students identifying as Hispanic. A year before opening the Foster School of Medicine, El Paso County had 37% less physicians when compared to the average for the state of Texas. Over the next 10 years, the county saw an increase of physicians, reducing the shortage to 28%.
Thanks to the Foster School of Medicine, talented students from the Paso del Norte region with a passion for medicine and serving the community have the option to attend medical school in their hometown.
Check out our photos from the 2021 Foster School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony: