After only three years in existence, American University of Antigua inducted a record number of students into the medical community through its White Coat ceremony.

A crowd comprising friends, family and well-wishers, packed the sweltering cathedral cultural center as 66 students crossed the threshold that represents the completion of basic sciences, and the beginning of the clinical journey.

Minister of Health, the Honorable John Maginley was presented with a white coat prior to his address and was introduced by Dr. H. A. Morcos the Chairperson of the afternoon’s proceedings, as a “dynamic member of the government of Antigua & Barbuda”.

Dr. Morcos explained the reason for this symbolic presentation. “To patients, the white coat denotes authority and trust ascribed to physicians by the general population. In the same way, the presentation of this coat to Mr. Maginely symbolizes the faith which the AUA places in the minister’s ability to successfully charter a course for this country’s health care system.”

The significance of private investors in public health was the main focus of the Minister’s address. According to him, institutions like the AUA play an important role in creating opportunities for young people to become doctors. The Minister addressed the issue of the shortage of medical practitioners both in the U.S. and the Caribbean, and highlighted the fact that oftentimes it is quite difficult for persons of colour to access medical schools in the U.S. schools such as the AUA were instrumental in creating such opportunities

Creating links with private investors to maximize the benefits for the country as a whole was also underscored. “We as public health officials are looking at how we get your services once you are completed. How do we maximize your services so that everyone has the benefit of your expertise?’ He added “the Mount St. John Medical Center is due to open at the end of this year and one of the things that we are speaking to the University about is the possibility of you doing clinical rotations, for credit, as part of your courses.” This is one of the ways he indicated mutual benefit could be achieved.

In closing, the Minister congratulated the University for issuing a number of scholarships to citizens of Antigua and Barbuda and issued a challenge to the University to ensure that an Antiguan inductee was present at each white coat ceremony. Last year, former Carnival queen and Miss Universe contestant Ann-Marie Browne-Joseph was the lone Antiguan inductee.

Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean of the University Victor Hrehorovich followed the health minister with the keynote address. He congratulated the students for their hard work. “For four long semesters, as gentle tropical breezes fanned the sunny beaches of Antigua, you studied your little hearts out. You poured over anatomy textbooks and others, till your eyes sagged from fatigue, your brain swelled from the weight of medical knowledge you were accumulating, you managed to overcome temptations, and you have persevered.”

Among other local personalities featured at the ceremony were Mrs. Janet Michael Boustany, Lincoln “Blade” Stanislaus, and pan prodigy Chekiyah Martin who offered renditions of the national anthem. After the new inductees had all donned their white coats, the students exited the building to the tune of El A Kru’s “Antigua Nice”. It is expected that by next year there will be at least 80 inductees.