Students Share Their Journey to Medical School

group story

“There are a few times in our lives, a very few when we have a dramatic demarcation of how our life proceeds from one adventure to the next. Receiving your white coat is one of those sharp and memorable times,” says Dean Jakub Tolar in a memo to incoming students.

On Friday, August 24, 2018, the newest class of MD students experienced that memorable moment Dean Tolar spoke of, participating in the annual ceremony on the Twin Cities campus. We spoke with three students from the incoming class who shared their journey to the University of Minnesota and their hopes for the next four years of Medical School. 

Maggie Plattes


Maggie Plattes's story began outside of Pequot Lakes, a small town in north central Minnesota. “Both of my parents are family medicine practitioners and their examples of excellence, service, and balance sparked my desire to study medicine.” Growing up in a rural medically underserved area instilled in her a commitment to working with marginalized communities.

Maggie received her undergraduate degree in biology from Taylor University, in central Indiana. There she pursued her interests in the sciences and mental health, but it wasn’t until she returned to northern Minnesota to work at a community mental health clinic that she discovered how her desire to work with underserved populations fit within medicine. “Working at a mental health center, I saw my passion for mental health cross paths with my vision to provide medical care to the underserved, and I knew that I had identified the population I wanted to serve."

“I decided on the University of Minnesota Medical School because of its close proximity to home, along with its outstanding Rural Physician Associate Program,” she says. This unique longitudinal program at the UMN Medical School compliments Maggie's desire to work in underserved populations.

“The White Coat Ceremony is an outward expression of an inward commitment,” notes Maggie. “It represents the responsibility and privilege of entering into the medical community and the accountability we now have to our fellow classmates, peers, family, and community.”

Marvin So

Marvin so

Marvin So graduated with bachelors and masters degrees in community health from UC Berkeley and Harvard University, respectively. After several years conducting children’s mental health research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he decided to shift to the clinical side of medicine. While he appreciated how research could create system-wide change, he missed interacting directly with patients.

“Though I still hope to be involved in public health,” he explains, “I wanted the practice of addressing immediate patient health needs to be at the center of my life, rather than on its periphery.”

While Marvin did mention the importance of the White Coat Ceremony as a rite of passage, he maintains a unique outlook on the white coat. He notes, “Several of my mentors have spent their lives delivering healthcare to people overcoming homelessness and addiction, and they often opted to not use their white coat to better meet patients at their level.”

“Receiving this white coat is undoubtedly an immense privilege,” Marvin says. “But holding that privilege means we must make visible the individuals that are sometimes missed or underserved by the white coats of our healthcare system. I believe we can play a role in shaping future systems of care that provide accessible and life-sustaining services to all people, regardless of who they are.”

Karl Malloy


Karl Malloy received a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Harvard College, a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law, and studied the Economics of European Integration at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

As a lawyer, banker, and entrepreneur, Karl has focused his career on rehabilitating low-income, highly distressed communities. “I have learned that issues confronting highly distressed communities often pivot on not only matters of law and finance but also health and disease,” he says. “My motivation for becoming a physician is to acquire the medical knowledge to ask the right questions about health and disease so that I can more effectively address the needs of low-income communities.”

“The White Coat Ceremony is an exciting time for the medical community,” says Karl. “For first-year medical students, the White Coat Ceremony is a celebration of the past, the present, and what the future holds. Donning the white coat in the presence of family, friends, and the medical community is an acknowledgement of our journey to medical school, our entrance into the medical profession, and our commitment to alleviate human suffering caused by disease.”