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White Coat Ceremony Marks Turning Point for New Doctors

First-ever St. Rose Medical Residents embark on three-year commitment in southern Nevada

LAS VEGAS, June 30, 2023 – The first twelve Medical Residents in the history of St. Rose Dominican Hospitals recently received their white coats in a brief ceremony at San Martin Hospital. For the dozen recent medical school graduates who comprise the inaugural class of St. Rose Residents, the event marks the beginning of three-years of clinical training as Internal Medicine Residents in southern Nevada. For Dignity Health-St. Rose Dominican, this is the realization of a long sought-after mission to establish a Graduate Medical Education program that will improve health care in our community. 

What it means: The White Coat Ceremony is a major turning point in the career of every medical doctor. In Medicine, the white coat is a symbol of authority and professionalism. The length of the white coat corresponds with the level of training a physician has received. Medical students wear short white coats. Residents wear a mid-length white coat. This event marks the first time these new doctors will receive their new coats as they begin the next phase of their medical careers. 

“Our vision is to improve health outcomes for all Nevadans,” said Dr. Rodney Buzzas, Designated Institutional Official for Graduate Medical Education Programs at St. Rose Hospitals. “The key objective of developing Graduate Medical Education programs at St Rose is to educate and retain high quality physicians and prepare them to address the healthcare needs of our community, especially those who are vulnerable, underserved, and marginalized. In creating opportunities for young doctors and providing exceptional training in a community-based setting, we hope they will remain here and become valued members of our community.”

The inaugural class: The twelve students who make up the first Dignity Health-St. Rose Dominican Graduate Medical Education Program are:

  • Khalid Al-rayess - San Francisco, CA
  • Alexis Baricevic - Rolling Hills Estates, CA
  • Matthew Barrera - Redlands, CA
  • Christine Huynh - Renton, WA
  • Ameer Khalek - Las Vegas, NV
  • Shazia Pathan - Los Angeles, CA
  • Tha Sok - Alhambra, CA
  • Jisang Yu - Yeongwol, South Korea
  • Okanlawon Abu - Lagos, Nigeria
  • Farah Issa - Cairo, Egypt
  • Olivia O’Keefe - Las Vegas, NV
  • Joanne Uy - Cebu City, Philippines

Twelve of 1,200: Members of the inaugural Internal Medicine Residency class were selected from more than 1,200 applicants. Two members of the inaugural class are from the Las Vegas area, with two others  graduating from Las Vegas-based Touro University Nevada College of Osteopathic Medicine. The remainder of the group brings a beneficial diversity of hometowns, colleges, and cultures from across the nation and around the world. 

Recruiting efforts for this class focused on candidates with interests in volunteerism and community service, life experience outside of medicine, patient advocacy, serving diverse, under-represented and vulnerable populations, addressing health care inequities, and living and working in southern Nevada.

Each year, twelve new residents will join the three-year St. Rose Internal Medicine program, growing it to a total of 36 residents in its third year. Each year, twelve Residents will follow an Internal Medicine course of study with four of the twelve Residents also following a specialized track for doctors planning to practice as Primary Care physicians. 

Nevada needs Primary Care: The St. Rose Internal Medicine Residency Primary Care track was created to focus, educate, and retain primary care physicians and prepare them to address our community’s shortage of such physicians. Among U.S. states:

  • Nevada ranks 48th in primary care physicians per 100,000 population 
  • Nevada ranks 44th with 21.4 residency positions per 100,000 population, but 25th with 32.6 medical students per 100,000 population
  • Residency training is an important determinant in where future doctors choose to ultimately set up practice. 57.8 percent of residency program graduates remain in-state.

Kimberly Bates, MD, Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency Program, said, “The driving force for the development of Graduate Medical Education programs at St. Rose is the physician shortage in Nevada, especially in primary care. As these first twelve Residents take the next significant steps in their careers, they are but the first of many medical professionals we hope to bring to southern Nevada to train and ultimately live and work in our community.” 

Where Residents will practice: The Residents will train primarily at the San Martín Hospital Campus which serves a wide geographic area in the southwest area of the valley. They will train in a group practice model in the primary care clinic of the Dignity Health Neighborhood Hospital Campus in North Las Vegas (near Martin Luther King and Craig) where they will have opportunity to provide care in an underserved community.

The curriculum will emphasize rigorous clinical experiences paired with instruction emphasizing evidence-based medicine, patient-centered care, quality improvement and education over service.


About Dignity Health-St. Rose Dominican

Dignity Health-St. Rose Dominican recently celebrated 75 years in southern Nevada, marking the anniversary of the arrival of the seven Adrian Dominican Sisters who founded Rose de Lima Hospital on June 27, 1947. As Nevada’s only not-for-profit, faith-based health system, St. Rose Dominican is still guided by the vision and core values of the Adrian Dominican Sisters in all its endeavors. As the Henderson and Las Vegas communities grow, the St. Rose Dominican health system and its nearly 4,000 employees continue the Sisters’ mission of serving people in need. Dignity Health currently operates three acute care hospitals in southern Nevada and is a member of the multi-state Dignity Health network of nearly 10,000 physicians, 60,000 employees, 41 acute care hospitals, and 400-plus care centers, including hospitals, urgent and occupational care, imaging centers, and primary care clinics. For more information, visit our website at

Publish date: 

Friday, June 30, 2023

Media Contact

Gordon Absher, External Communications Manager

p: (702) 616-4840

[email protected]