On June 3, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) hosted a white coat ceremony for more than for 60 high school students from across the Mid-South. The ceremony is the conclusion of a six-month program entitled Determined to be a Doctor Someday (DDS). United States Congressman Steve Cohen delivered the welcoming address.
The program’s objective is to stimulate and encourage minority and under-represented students to pursue careers in health care. It involves mentoring the students and detailing what is required to pursue a doctorate degree in health care.
Traditionally, the white coat ceremony is done for students as they enter professional school or embark upon seeing patients in a clinical setting. It has been used at schools around the country as a means of establishing a psychological contract for the practice of various health care disciplines. Professional school is years down the road for these students, but receiving white coats now provides them with a tangible item to remind them of the promise they’ve made to themselves to pursue health care professions.
The initiative is the creation of local dentist and UTHSC College of Dentistry alumna (’05) Christina Rosenthal, DDS, MPH, who saw the national need for an increase of minority health care providers. “Coming from very humble beginnings in North Memphis, my quest to become a dentist was never easy, but I made it,” Dr. Rosenthal said. Dentistry has not only allowed me to achieve my dreams, but it has also given me a chance to be a blessing to my family and the community. This could not have been possible without health care providers, who not only provided care, but served as mentors along the way. This is my chance to give back.”
University of Mississippi student Destinee Walker, who is a biology (pre-med) major minoring in chemistry, knows all about the benefits of the DDS program. She participated in the program six years ago, when she heard about it from her mom who works for Dr. Rosenthal. “My favorite aspect of the program was the different variety of doctors coming to speak with us,” she said. “It helped me get a better understanding of what I needed to do for my future career. After years of going to DDS, I decided I wanted to become a pediatrician, because I love being around children.”
Walker said the biggest lesson she learned was to always take initiative. “You should always leave an event with at least one phone number from a person you met,” she said. “That one person may have the potential to change your life in the future. Also, many of us come from different backgrounds and different cultures, so your grades may not look like the next person, but you should never get discouraged in anything you are trying to achieve. Anything is possible if you stay motivated and set your mind to it.”
Walker continues to volunteer for DDS and plans to attend medical school upon graduation.
Applications are currently being accepted for the symposium component of DDS, which will occur August 26, 2017 at UTHSC. Additional information can be found online at www.determinedtobeadoctor.org or by contacting Dr. Rosenthal by phone at (901) 758-2127.