Rowan SOM students don white lab coats, enter medical profession at Stratford ceremony

Rowan SOM students don white lab coats, enter medical profession at Stratford ceremony

By Greg Adomaitis, South Jersey Times

STRATFORD — The few, the proud, the physicians.

That motto certainly rang true Sunday morning as 162 men and women — selected from nearly 5,000 applicants — donned their white lab coats at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine's (SOM) welcoming ceremony.

"The journey will not be easy, but the fruit of your labor will be abundant," Rowan SOM Dean Thomas A. Cavalieri told the crowd of more than 300 people who assembled for the annual ceremony that has been held at the school since 1996.

The tradition initially began three years prior at Columbia University, the symbolism of which was explained by keynote speaker Wayne R. Carlsen, a Class of 1986 graduate and one of Cavalieri's former students.

The "time-honored" symbol of the short white coats, Carlsen said, represents both a physician in training and a deviation from black coats worn more than 100 years ago, when medicine was more about diagnosing diseases than finding cures for them.

Of the 162 students, 144 hailed from the Garden State and 33 of them from South Jersey.

Rowan University President Ali A. Houshmand noted not only the importance of diversity among those accepted to the program, but the success that comes with hard work.

Laura Gurenlian, 26, of Mantua Township, can attest to that. Her path began back in 2008, but it was personal experiences that convinced her this was the right decision.

"Having been a patient, I really understand the necessary qualities to be a good doctor," she said of a health scare during the middle of her master's program that took two years to render a diagnosis. "Doctors take care of people at their most vulnerable place," she added.

In addition, time spent as a caretaker dealing with sickness and disability among family members "sealed the deal," she said.

For William Spinosi, 23, of Haddonfield, his first-grade teacher sparked the flame that is now his interest in science and math. He began college in fall 2009 and was accepted to Rowan SOM this year.

"Surreal," he said of what the experience has been like. "It's me taking another step to becoming a doctor."

Bernard Jones, 31, of Millville, had been working as an automobile mechanic when he decided to shift gears and attend Rowan University.

"I was always interested in the sciences, I just never did anything with it," he said.

After four years of undergraduate studies at the Glassboro campus, from 2009 to 2013, Jones was accepted into the Stratford medical school — the only one he applied to.

For Jones and fellow students however, Sunday was the first step toward four more years of education and a few more years of residency at a hospital or doctor's office.

"Now is the beginning of everything I wanted," Gurenlian said.

With lab coats folded over one arm, the students ascended to the stage, turned right, faced the crowd and had faculty do the honors when it came time to don their newest article of clothing.

Steve Bialick, who is president of Rowan SOM's student council, will be part of 2016's graduating class. Having a few year's worth of experience already under his belt, Bialick offered the following advice.

"Trust each other, look out for each other, struggle together, laugh together, cry together and party together. If you do, you'll succeed together."

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Date Published: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 16:00