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TSU Holds Annual White Coat Ceremony, Pipeline for Medical and Healthcare Students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – From Houston, Texas, to Tennessee State University, the Lord family said the 12-hour drive was well worth it to witness a significant milestone in their son’s journey towards becoming a medical professional. Ethan Lord, a freshman biology major, is part of TSU’s third annual White Coat Ceremony, an event marking the progress of students on the path to becoming doctors and dentists through the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Medical/Dental, Accelerated Pathway Program.

Dr. Connie Graves

The program is a collaborative effort between Tennessee State University and Meharry Medical College aimed at creating a pipeline for future healthcare professionals. Ethan has aspirations to become an orthopedic surgeon.

“I am grateful and excited,” Ethan Lord said. “It feels good to be recognized. My parents drove 12 hours last night, so I am thankful for that.”

Lord’s mother, who is a pediatrician, acknowledged the challenges ahead but expressed unwavering support.

Cohort 1 presented Dean Barbra Murrell with a framed photo from 2020 symbolizing their journey together and appreciation for her unwavering support.

“We just want him to know that we will be behind him,” she said. “I am looking forward to seeing him mature and solidifying his goals.”

Ethan’s father is a physical medicine and rehab specialist.

“The white coat ceremony is a traditional event; we knew the significance of it, and Ethan wanted us to be here.” Lord spoke highly of Ethan being a mature student and knows that he will do well in the program.

Cohort one officially receiving their white coats to kick start their medical and dentistry journeys.

During the ceremony, TSU President Glenda Glover expressed gratitude, especially to parents, while also acknowledging the legacy of TSU alumnus Dr. Levi Watkins Jr.

“We honor Dr. Levi Watkins and the role he played in advancing medicine, performing lifesaving research and, in fact, saving lives through his invention,” President Glover said.

“I look forward to you becoming role models and essential healthcare professionals. I am just as excited and eager to watch you as you become role models for other TSU students.”

Dr. Dawn, left, and Edward Lord III, right, drove 12-hours to witness their son Ethan receive his white coat during the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Medical/Dental, Accelerated Pathway Program.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Connie Graves, emphasized the significance of the event, reminding the students of those who paved the way for them. Inspired by Dr. Watkins’ legacy, she spoke about excellence, authenticity, and activism, challenging the students to fulfill their dreams.

“There is excellence in this room, and there is activism in this room,” Graves said. “And on this day as you receive your white coat, you have accepted the challenge. Congratulations as you enter your journey into the field of medicine.”

Students from cohorts 1-3 received their white coats during the ceremony. Barbara Murrell, chair of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute and fondly referred to as Dean Murrell, was also recognized for her vision to establish the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute and her dedication to ensuring the program’s success. Cohort 1 presented Dean Murrell with a framed photo, symbolizing their journey together. The group also presented President Glover with a white coat to demonstrate their appreciation for her unwavering support.

Cohort 1 presented President Glover with a white coat to demonstrate their appreciation during the ceromony.

Dean Murrell thanked the students for their contribution to TSU and the nation and emphasized their role as “the cure.”

“To cohort one, you started off with us, we grew together, we made it through to this day together, and now we are going to medical school together. I thank all of you for choosing TSU and what you have brought to the university and what you will bring to our nation.”

McKhia McCrary

McKhia McCrary, a senior from cohort one who will be attending Meharry next fall, highlighted the importance of HBCU pathway programs in providing resources to underrepresented communities. She ended with some advice for the third cohort students about pursuing medicine and dentistry.

“Always remember your why,” McCrary said. “Classes get hard, you’re active on campus, but if you remember your why, you can push through anything. Remember why you went into the medical field and why you’re needed.”

To learn more about the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Medical/Dental, Accelerated Pathway Program, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/watkins/