Dear Colleagues,

It is important that we acknowledge the success and accomplishments of our faculty and staff. I was very pleased to recently attend the Department of Surgery’s weekly conference in which I saw a new way of celebrating faculty success. It is something I hope might become standard in other School of Medicine departments.

Dr. Barnes, chair of the Department of Surgery, presided over the conference, and he provided a nice overview of the state of the department. At the conclusion of his presentation, he acknowledged three faculty members who had recently been promoted and one faculty member who was awarded an endowed professorship, all significant career achievements.

Dr. Barnes came up with the idea to do a “white coat ceremony” for these faculty members. Of course, we all know about our White Coat Ceremony for our incoming medical students, which we held July 28 in Jesse Hall. We welcomed 128 new medical students to the University of Missouri, and they officially donned their first white coats. This is an emotional tradition that we perform each year with friends and family in attendance.

White Coat Ceremony YouTube Thumbnail
This year’s white coat ceremony was a happy and emotional day for the 128 incoming students in the class of 2027. Watch a recap video of this year’s ceremony.

Dr. Barnes modified this concept. He acknowledged three faculty members who were recently promoted from assistant to associate professor of Surgery. They were:

  • Jonathan Bath, MD, in Division of Vascular Surgery
  • Elizabeth Malm-Buatsi, MD, who is in the Division of Urologic Surgery (Pediatrics)
  • Emily Albright, MD, in the Division of Surgical Oncology

At the event, Dr. Barnes and I gave each of these newly promoted associate professors a brand-new white coat with their name and new academic rank on it. Together, we helped them put on their new coats. Dr. Barnes and I are both former military physicians, and he drew inspiration from the promotion ceremonies that occur in the military. In the military, when one achieves a new rank, such as going from captain to major or major to lieutenant colonel, there is a ceremony in which military colleagues replace the rank insignia on the epaulettes with the new rank. These ceremonies are always very moving, and this academic white coat ceremony for faculty achieving a higher academic rank was equally emotional and moving. Acuff Auditorium was completely full with students, residents, faculty and staff from the Department of Surgery to witness the event.

Dr. Elizabeth Malm-Buatsi steps forward to accept her new white coat with her name and new academic rank.
Dr. Elizabeth Malm-Buatsi steps forward to accept her new white coat with her name and new academic rank.

Dr. Elizabeth Malm-Buatsi steps forward to accept her new white coat with her name and new academic rank.

In addition, Dr. Barnes and I were pleased to announce that Andrew Wheeler, MD, Chief Division of General Surgery, Program Director General Surgery Residency and Bariatric Surgery Fellowship, has recently been awarded the Marion S. Deweese Distinguished Professorship in Surgery. Being awarded a distinguished professorship in academics is an aspirational event and represents essentially a career achievement award for a job well done.

I am incredibly proud of all our faculty who were promoted in 2023, and I wanted to share the Department of Surgery’s novel way of recognizing academic promotion. I want to encourage others to explore creative ways to honor faculty, staff and student achievement for outstanding performance.


Rick Barohn, MD
Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Hugh E. and Sarah D. Stephenson Dean, School of Medicine