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Wyoming WWAMI Ceremony Overcomes Challenges to Celebrate Students’ Medical School Success

March 19, 2021
Lauren McVeigh, Annie Smidt and Chae Sutherland

Overcoming challenges has become the new normal for academics, and the Wyoming WWAMI Medical Education Program on the University of Wyoming campus is no exception.

Having completed the two-year “Foundations” phase of the program’s medical curriculum, 20 second-year medical students marked an important point of transition during a ceremony that almost did not happen.

The White Coat Ceremony took place Friday, March 12, right before the weekend blizzard that hit southeastern Wyoming. Despite the intimidating forecast, all 20 students and faculty/mentors wanted to have the ceremony as planned, says Tim Robinson, director of the Wyoming WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) program.

The white coat is used to symbolize compassion and honor, and will be worn by the students throughout the clinical portion of their medical training, which follows the white coat event. In the clinical phase, students rotate through various medical specialty clinical education rotations, known as clerkships, throughout the five-state region, including teaching hospitals associated with the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

In his opening remarks, Robinson noted the challenges the past year has brought -- a first-time experience for UW’s medical students in navigating a global pandemic, while continuing their medical education. The circumstances brought on by COVID-19 could not be compared to anything experienced before by students or WWAMI administrators.

Dr. Larry Kirven, former WWAMI clinical dean, presented the evening’s keynote address, pointing out the many challenges of the past year. Reflecting on his own experiences in medical school, Kirven noted that the future physicians would need to learn and develop a skill set not necessarily taught in textbooks.

“While you’re immersed in your clinical training, you’ll need to take time for yourself to understand the importance of having objectivity and empathy for your patients. Listening to your patients and hearing what they have to say will be a very important part of your medical practice,” Kirven says.

Dr. Julie Carlson, assistant clinical curriculum director and physician mentor, began the presentation of the white coats to the students in their mentor groups of five each. Drs. Tracey Haas, John Haeberle and Yvette Haeberle, clinical curriculum director, presented white coats to their student mentees.

To close the ceremony, special recognition was given to three student award recipients. The Pheneger Community Health Award was presented to Lauren McVeigh, of Laramie, and Annie Smidt, from Sheridan. The Howard Willson, MD Excellence in Primary Care Award was presented to Chae Sutherland, of Casper.

Interested individuals can view a recording of this year’s White Coat Ceremony by visiting

Each year, Wyoming WWAMI accepts 20 students into the program, where they spend 18 months on the UW campus before going to clinical sites throughout the five-state WWAMI region.

Students in the 2019-2020 WWAMI class, listed by hometown, are:

Casper -- Caleb Hardt, Bradley Lutz, Natasha Radosevich, Marley Realing and Chae Sutherland.

Cheyenne -- Jacob Kennedy, Anthony Menghini and Samantha Pettigrew.

Douglas -- Hayden True.

Gillette -- Amanda Galambas and Perry Smith.

Green River -- Daniel Lancaster.

Lander -- Peter McCullough.

Laramie -- Tyler Loose and Lauren McVeigh.

Pine Haven -- Savanah Richter.

Sheridan -- Thomas Fenn and Annie Smidt.

Worland -- Larissa Siirila.

Wright -- Michael Yeradi.

To learn more about the Wyoming WWAMI Medical Education Program, visit


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