RowanSOM Welcomes 162 New Student Doctors

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On the first Sunday of August, the air inside the Academic Center on the Stratford campus buzzed with excitement and anticipation as 162 men and women waited to take the first steps on a career that, for many, had been years in the making. As they came forward during a tradition-filled White Coat Ceremony, the steps the new ‘student doctors’ took that day represented more than personal milestones. Their steps were also historic, as they became the first class of the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM).   

On the first Sunday of August, the air inside the Academic Center on the Stratford campus buzzed with excitement and anticipation as 162 men and women waited to take the first steps on a career that, for many, had been years in the making. As they came forward during a tradition-filled White Coat Ceremony, the steps the new ‘student doctors’ took that day represented more than personal milestones. Their steps were also historic, as they became the first class of the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM).  

Although the School of Osteopathic Medicine has welcomed students with a White Coat Ceremony every year since 1996, this was the first to take place since July 1, the date when the Stratford-based medical school merged with Rowan University. The importance of the day was not lost on the students, staff or faculty, including those who had experienced this event before.

Ari Goldwaser, of Wycoff, is the youngest of three brothers to enroll in the school. His brother, Eric, has completed his second year at RowanSOM and is pursuing a dual DO/PhD degree.  His oldest brother, Elan, graduated in May and is currently completing his post-graduate residency at the school. Ari attended his brothers’ White Coat Ceremonies and has been on the Stratford campus all summer conducting research with members of the RowanSOM faculty.

“Even though I had been to White Coat Ceremonies for both of my brothers and walked through those same doors dozens of times, there was nothing quite so surreal as walking through them to get my own white coat,” Ari said. “It was such a new feeling, knowing that I was about to begin my own medical career.”

Morris County resident Samuel Werner has a unique connection to the medical school’s history.  In addition to being part of the first class at RowanSOM, he is the son of one of the school’s first graduates. Samuel’s father, Dr. Robert Werner, graduated from the School of Osteopathic Medicine in 1981. At the time, the school was part of the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which later became the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Following opening ceremonies, Dr. Kenneth Blank, vice president for Health Sciences at Rowan University, welcomed the inaugural class of RowanSOM. “We are so proud to have you and SOM as part of the Rowan family,” he said, adding that the White Coat Ceremony is a tradition that the University cherishes.

The White Coat tradition was begun by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 1993 at Columbia University to emphasize the essential role of humanism in medicine. The ceremony calls attention to the need to incorporate compassion, caring and integrity into the delivery of medical care.  

Emphasizing the importance of that commitment to humanism, Dr. Thomas Cavalieri, dean of RowanSOM, said that the incoming students have “a tremendous calling – to serve the healthcare needs of this country” and added that they have chosen “a noble profession that is at the very heart of service to humanity.”  

Dr. Lesly D’Ambola, a 1994 graduate and the 2013 recipient of RowanSOM’s distinguished alumni award, delivered the keynote address. Dr. D’Ambola is the medical director of St. Luke’s Catholic Medical Services, an affiliation of RowanSOM, the Camden Diocese and Holy Name of Camden Ministries that provides healthcare services to the poor, uninsured and underinsured in Camden and surrounding areas. She urged the students to be thankful for their patients who “are your greatest teachers” and related personal stories of patients who taught her valuable lessons about compassion, fortitude, and taking the time to listen. She asked the students to consider the importance of their hands, the hands that will deliver babies, perform life-saving surgery, and “touch a person who is leaving this life.” 

The 162 student doctors of the RowanSOM Class of 2017 were selected from over 4,700 applicants. More than 85 percent of the students are from New Jersey, including 31 from South Jersey. 

The White Coat Ceremony concluded with the induction of 13 RowanSOM students and two faculty members into the Gold Humanism Honor Society. Established a decade ago, the honor society recognizes individuals for “modeling the qualities of integrity, excellence, compassion, altruism, respect and empathy.” 

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