WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's not a graduation, but a first, important step toward the profession they have chosen to pursue.
It's known as the White Coat Ceremony, in which new medical students are given the garment with a lot of significance.
"The White Coat Ceremony is a way of us bringing the new, incoming physicians in training to understand the professionalism that is part of being a doctor," said Dr. Jerris Hedges, dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii.
The medical students donned the white coat in the ceremony at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and were also given their first stethoscope, as well as the book, the "Bates Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking," a gift from the Friends of the Medical School.
After the ceremony, Steven Gonsalves gave his reason why he wants to become a doctor: "Being able to help people and go back to the communities and provide services to the under-served individuals in the community."
There are 66 students in the Class of 2015, the largest ever in the history of JABSOM. They were hand-picked out of 1,600 applicants.
"I wanted to come back to Hawaii to finish my medical education and thankfully I got into the University of Hawaii," said Justin Grubbs, who already has a degree from the University of Southern California and had also lived in Washington. "And one of 66 -- they say its a four percent chance of getting in."
Nearly 90 percent of the class is from Hawaii, including nine neighbor island residents. There are eight students from outside Hawaii, including one each from Beijing, Japan and Canada. Men make up 52 percent of the class, which has an average age of 23.
If all goes well, they will be doctors four years from now. And there will certainly be a need for them in the islands.
"Statewide, we're looking at approximately 600 short at this time of what a comparable community or state on the mainland would have in terms of demographic needs," Dr. Hedges said, adding that half of the shortage is on the neighbor islands.
"That is a significant challenge for us because we have many communities where the patient or family must leave the island in order to find a physician to care for them other than in the local emergency department," he said.
Quite a few of the students stated their intention to remain in the islands after graduation.
"I intend to go back and work in the community that I grew up in, and give back," said Gonsalves, who was born and raised in Kahului.
"I would love to stay here and work and take care of the people of Hawaii," Grubbs said. "Its an aging population, so to be able to care for them would be an amazing opportunity."