Western Atlantic University School of Medicine (WAUSM) held its fourth white coat ceremony on January 14 in the Grand Lucayan Ballroom where 24 students joined the medical degree program.
“For the program in Grand Bahama, we are approaching the 100 student mark with this latest addition of students,” said WAUSM’s Board of Trustees’ Chairman William “Bill” Colgan.
“This is a milestone for WAUSM as we begin our second year of operations. So, things are going very well, and we are pleased.”
WAUSM Grand Bahama campus officially opened in January 2022 with 15 international students.
The medical school has three class intakes each year — January, May and September — with the Freeport campus offering a two-year pre-clerkship, which includes an introduction to medicine, combined with medical sciences and doctoring, as well as a two-week clinical skills curriculum.
Years three and four are completed in the United States (US) after which students earn their medical degree and go on to their residency.
“We are looking forward to the addition of our next two classes – May and September. So, at the end of 2023, we anticipate having over 200 students at the medical school,” Colgan said.
Presently, there are 93 students enrolled in the program, six of whom are Bahamians.
Two of the six received their white coats during the ceremony.
“This feels amazing,” Grand Bahama native Delvonae Beckles told Grand Bahama News after being enrobed in her white coat.
“During the ceremony, they mentioned a little girl who was in kindergarten dressing up as a doctor. That was me. So, it is amazing to see this moment come full circle and just to be here living out and fulfilling my dream,” said Beckles.
“I could not imagine anything like it, especially being in my hometown of Freeport, to be able to school here. I am just so excited for what WAUSM has to offer and to be able to give back all my knowledge to the community.”
The first-year student is pursuing a career in pediatric medicine.
“I’ve always been passionate about the field, especially as it relates to caring for children, and now seeing the advancement of healthcare in the community now,” she said.
Thomas Ebersole, who is from Canton, Ohio, was also excited to receive his white coat.
“I was waiting so long for this day and for it to finally be here is an amazing experience,” Ebersole said.
As it relates to his field of study, he said, “I am keeping an open mind, so right now, it’s just general studies.”
Asked why he chose WAUSM Grand Bahama, he replied, “It’s not just an opportunity to study medicine and get the full experience, but to do it in The Bahamas. It’s unbelievable.”
Former US Military Service woman Andrienne Johnson, who is from Orlando, Florida, is hoping to specialize in women’s health.
“I want to inspire and bring awareness to issues that affect women like infertility, pelvic disorders, things of that nature,” Johnson said.
“Also, to create a more holistic, wholesome approach to women’s health.”
For Johnson, choosing WAUSM Grand Bahama campus was easy.
“First, the weather here and it is so close to home but, more importantly, the staff has been amazing since the beginning, very on point and helpful with all the information,” she said.
“They just made me feel at home since day one.”
Johnson said her journey to getting her white coat has taken a long time.
“A lot of tears, a lot of heartbreak, so it is just incredible to finally make it here,” she said.
The university’s first phase is complete and features world-class facilities and technology, including a high-tech simulation center, virtual anatomy, contemporary examination rooms, and standardized patients who are individuals recruited and trained to take on the characteristics of real patients, providing the med students with the opportunity to learn and be evaluated on their skill in a simulated clinical environment.
Construction of phase two has begun and is scheduled to be completed by summer 2023, according to officials.
That phase of the facility includes classrooms, small group study rooms, collaborative spaces, a café, leisure space, lockers, and additional administrative space.
The third phase is in its planning stages and will double the size of the campus, according to officials.
Construction of that phase is anticipated to commence in the second quarter of 2024.
“I will tell you to take full advantage of the offering on the campus,” said WAUSM board member Dr. Marcus Bethel in his keynote address.
“Over the coming years, you will face periods of disappointment, and periods of failure, perhaps, but stay focused and keep your efforts going in terms of wanting to achieve the milestones that will be set before you.”
Bethel told the new students they will experience mental fatigue, frustration and exhaustion progressing through the years of medical study.
“However, you must continue to have faith in God and, of course, your family support to help you through what will be some very trying times in order for you to succeed,” he said.
“But success is there providing you maintain the focus, maintain your efforts and your faith, and those of you who do eventually graduate from medical school, I certainly want to take this opportunity to pray your perseverance.”
Sharing principles that he practices in understanding the passage of medicine and being a successful physician, Bethel advised the students to follow the four ‘A’s’ – ability, actability, availability and affordability.
“Ability, this requires training in a qualified medical school, one that fosters continued growth and development even after you have graduated. Actability, this refers to good communication skills and compassion for your patient,” said Bethel.
“Availability means you must find the time to apply to your practice the quality time that makes your practice and your patients’ service one of quality. And finally, affordability. Keep in mind that quality service undermines all that you will be doing going forward. You must wake up and understand, quality service is what you are here to do.”
He congratulated the students and wished them much success as they progress through life in their medical profession.