Doctor of Medicine Class of 2019 begins studies at the SMHS

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School of Medicine & Health Sciences


GRAND FORKS, N.D.—Seventy-nine first-year medical students, members of the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) Class of 2019, begin their journey next week to become physicians at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Students are formally inducted at the school’s White Coat Ceremony. The students, 41 men and 38 women, range in age from 21 to 42 years, with the average age of 24.

They come to medical school with work experience in an array of fields and academic degrees in anthropology, applied science, bacteriology, biochemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology, biological sciences, biological systems engineering, biology, biomedical science, cell and developmental biology, cell biology and neuroscience, chemistry, classics, communications, criminal justice, electrical engineering, exercise science, general studies, genetics and cell development, honors, international studies, medical laboratory science, microbiology, music, natural sciences, Norwegian, nursing, nutrition, philosophy, physics, physiology, pre-medical, psychology, public health, radiology, respiratory care, and zoology. Some of the students already hold advanced degrees, including master’s degrees in aerospace engineering, anatomy and cell biology, biology, human toxicology and pathophysiology, and public health. One student holds a doctoral degree in pharmacy.

Heidi Marxen Bittner, M.D., will deliver the keynote address for the ceremony titled "White Coat? I thought you said white GOAT!" Bittner practices as a family physician at Altru Clinic Lake Region and at Mercy Hospital in Devils Lake, N.D. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Natural Sciences and Honors from UND, and earned her Doctorate of Medicine from the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, where she is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. Bittner also serves as medical director and ultrasonographer for First Choice Clinic in Devils Lake and practices at the Obstetrics Outreach Clinic in Langdon, N.D.

Bittner has served as president of the North Dakota Academy of Family Physicians (NDAFP). She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians and was the North Dakota delegate to the National Congress of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Bittner is a board member of the North Dakota Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology and served on the Board of Directors of the North Dakota Academy of Family Physicians Foundation. She is a member of the American Medical Association and the Catholic Medical Association. In 2007, she was named the NDAFP Physician of the Year, and in 2009, she won the Devils Lake Unsung Hero Award. She is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. In 2010, Bittner garnered the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award from the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Medical students’ first week is dedicated to orientation, including introduction to UND’s nationally recognized, four-year, patient-centered curriculum, where basic and clinical sciences are taught in the context of patient cases. Special emphasis is placed on the students’ new roles and expectations of them as health care professionals.

Orientation concludes with the White Coat Ceremony at 5 p.m., Aug. 7, in the Memorial Union Ballroom on the UND Campus in Grand Forks. Students receive their first white coats, physicians’ traditional garment, which have been donated by the North Dakota Medical Association, and they will recite the Oath of Hippocrates, an ancient vow to uphold basic professional principles. Each student will receive a lapel pin engraved with “Humanism in Medicine,” which was donated by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. After the ceremony, the school will host an indoor picnic for students, family and friends.

The students and their hometowns can be found at