Exploring the white coat journeys of four first-year osteopathic medical students


By: Sedora Tantraphol

Many paths, one legacy.

Every medical student has a unique White Coat Journey, a mosaic of experiences that have inspired them to become a physician, have connected them to people and circumstances that have supported or challenged them, and have sent them on their way to a future career that may be bumpy or smooth.

By donning a white coat, the Class of 2024 expands the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine legacy rooted in excellent training and a commitment to patient-centered care.

For first-year medical students, putting on a white coat for the first time is a sacred rite of passage into the medical profession and a momentous milestone in this journey.

Understanding the symbolism and emotion that accompanies putting on the white coat for the first time, the college captured four stories and shared them on social media:


Paola Kamga-Ngounou

“I have traveled thousands of miles and worked just as many hours to be here, so I am savoring this moment,” says first-year #SpartanDO student Paola Kamga-Ngounou as she puts on her white coat for the first time. Paola — who grew up in Cameroon — recognizes the importance of meeting basic health care needs and helping patients achieve wellness through patient-centered primary care, especially for disadvantaged populations. 

As a French-speaking international student, Paola’s journey to medical school “required a tremendous amount of effort” that has paid off.

“I feel powerful putting my white coat on because it means I will receive the knowledge and experience necessary to cure diseases and empower my patients to practice health maintenance.”

She credits her parents and her boyfriend for helping her realize her dreams and advises everyone to “put yourself out there and be kind” in order to seize opportunities that come from other people.


Lena Bazzi

For Lena Bazzi, Class of 2024, putting on a white coat means taking the first step toward joining health care providers everywhere who are committed to promoting health and wellness. 

One of those providers is Lena’s uncle and College of Osteopathic Medicine alumnus, who piqued her interest in the field of osteopathic medicine. Now, Lena starts her own rewarding journey toward becoming a #SpartanDO — what she considers “a commitment to the truest form of patient-centered care” — and she credits her family for teaching her the importance of education, perseverance and positively contributing to her community.

“Effective patient care goes far beyond the desire to help others. My experiences leading up to medical school have helped me gain a greater sense of the type of physician and person I strive to become, both within and outside of the healthcare setting.”


Nkechi Uzoukwu

Growing up in Nigeria, first-year #SpartanDO student Nkechi Uzoukwu witnessed firsthand how health disparities can affect a community, inspiring her to become a physician who looks beyond diseases when treating patients.

“My white coat signifies a realized dream resulting from my hard work and the tenacity of my support system...I’m excited to see where I go.”

Despite the challenges of being an international student—including missing her support network and mentors—Nkechi is eager to apply her expertise as an osteopathic physician to serving underprivileged populations like the one she grew up in.


Nathan Bautista

“To me, the white coat is an embodiment of a legacy. So many men and women have worn this coat with a unified mission to serve others,” says first-year #SpartanDO student Nathan Bautista.

He credits many people along the way not only for helping him get to medical school, but also preparing him to be “a symbol of hope for patients when they need help the most.”

When putting on his white coat, Nathan recalls a moment of accomplishment, but also responsibility.

 “Becoming a DO is no longer my own solitary wish, but a wish of the community I will serve. Those that may not even know me yet, babies who aren’t even born yet, are silently waiting for us so that we may serve and help them in the future.”

The White Coat Journey for the Class of 2024 is unparalleled. Grappling with uncertainty and adapting to constant changes in tandem with the rigors of medical school are not for the faint of heart. Every one of the over-300 students in the Class of 2024 has a captivating story to tell and the College of Osteopathic Medicine will be there along the way.

Follow our #WhiteCoatJourney on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.