Campus & Community

‘The first superhero that I ever came to know’


Photos by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

4 min read

Incoming medical and dental students thank those who helped them most

The new class of Harvard medical and dental students are a pretty diverse lot.

The 165 aspiring physicians hail from seven countries and 33 U.S. states, according to Robert Mayer, Harvard Medical School (HMS) faculty associate dean for admissions and Stephen B. Kay Family Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Fifty-six percent are female and 44 percent are male. Nearly a quarter come from populations underrepresented in medicine. The 35 new dental students come from 19 states. That class is 71 percent female and 29 percent male. Fourteen percent come from underrepresented groups. After a recent White Coat Ceremony at HMS marking the start of their four years of study, five med students and two dentists in training were asked to talk about the people in their lives who helped them most.

Ahmed Ahmed

Ahmed Ahmed

“Today is quite a heavy day for me. Just over 20 years ago my family came to this country as refugees from Somalia, but I recognize we wouldn’t be able to do that today due to a travel ban that has been instituted. So it is for that reason and for so much more that I dedicate this white coat to the Somali refugees and all those yearning to breathe free.”

Natasha and Alisha Nanji

“From a young age, we learned the importance of perseverance and the significance of giving back from our parents — our father was a refugee who fled dictator Idi Amin’s Uganda with $23, and our mother was an immigrant from Tanzania, sponsored by one of her eight sisters who had moved to Canada. Our parents met in Toronto and have been married for 30 years. When they met, our mom had recently completed an associate’s degree in computer programming. She was working a full-time job and financially supported our father through dental school. It is truly a miracle for both of us to be studying at Harvard today. Feeling humbled and beyond grateful is an understatement of how we felt upon receiving our acceptances. We both want to make outreach a pillar of how we practice dentistry. We want to dedicate our lives to helping others in underserved populations, both locally and globally.”

Nicolas Freeman

“As a queer and transgender person entering medicine — as a Latinx person entering medicine — I firmly believe that representation matters, and it is a prerequisite for justice.”

William Mbongo

“To my father, whose left leg was afflicted with polio: Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a man and to walk with dignity.”

William Mbongo

Logan Beyer

“I want to thank my family and the friends who have become family. Especially, I want to thank my younger brother, Jackson, who has taught me humility; my mom and my grandmothers, who have taught me that women are powerful; and my dad, who left us all with a legacy of love and who was the kind of physician I hope to become.”

LaShyra “Lash” Nolen

“I especially want to dedicate this day to my mother, Ty Harps, who raised me as a single mother and had me at the age of 18 years old. Technically speaking, I’m not supposed to be here. Statistically speaking, this is a miracle. And Mommy, you so silently are the architect behind all of my dreams and the dreams of so many in our family. And I just want you to know that you are the first superhero that I ever came to know. And I want you to know I have the privilege of putting on this white coat and feeling like a superhero because of you. Thank you for giving me the privilege to even wear it. And lastly, to all the little black girls out there: You can’t be what you can’t see, but I hope you see me now, and I hope you see yourself in me.”

A few lighthearted moments with students from Harvard Medical School’s 2019 White Coat Ceremony.