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Passion and commitment

Faculty of Medicine names 2022 honorary white coat recipient

Campus and Community

By Terri Coles

Dr. Elias Bartellas is this year’s Faculty of Medicine honorary white coat recipient. 

From left, Dr. Elias Bartellas puts a white medical coat over a dark suit and Dr. Margaret Steele looks on while standing next to a podium. A red curtain is behind.
From left are Dr. Elias Bartellas and Dr. Margaret Steele during the white coat ceremony.
Photo: Jennifer Armstrong

Dr. Bartellas, a retired obstetrician/gynecologist and faculty member, was selected for his innovations in medical education and practice.

They include the introduction of teaching tutorials to Memorial and several surgical procedures and policy changes to St. John’s hospitals.

“Recipients of the Faculty of Medicine honorary white coat are individuals who have been practising medicine for some time and display the qualities, passion and commitment to the profession that we hope our new learners will exhibit,” said Dr. Margaret Steele, dean of the Faculty of Medicine, at the ceremony on Sept. 22.

A professional symbol

At the ceremony held at the Faculty of Medicine, members of the undergraduate Class of 2026 received their white coats from faculty and recited the Declaration of Geneva oath. 

A large group of medical students wearing white coats are standing in an auditorium and holding their hands up in the air.
The Faculty of Medicine’s Class of 2026 after they received their white coats and took the Geneva oath.
Photo: Jennifer Armstrong

The white coat, a longstanding symbol of the medical profession, dates back to the 1800s and is thought to represent medical authority, respect and healing

Memorial’s tradition of selecting a professional leader to receive an honorary white coat each year is relatively new. Dr. Bartellas is the third recipient, after Dr. Janice Fitzgerald in 2021 and Dr. William Pryse-Phillips in 2020. 

Dr. Bartellas was born in Cyprus and studied at the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School. He completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology in Israel.

After moving to Canada in 1980, he began working in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in St. John’s. He also joined the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial as a part-time faculty member.

When he began at Memorial, Dr. Bartellas began giving clinical clerks and medical residents formal weekly tutorials. Over time, this practice became standard across all specialties at Memorial, with protected teaching time for clinical clerks. 

He also introduced surgical procedures, including mini laparotomy for abdominal hysterectomy, myomectomy and tubal anastomosis to the province. In addition, he served on university and hospital committees and completed and published clinical research.

Commitment to service

Dr. Bartellas addressed the medical class, sharing stories about coming to Canada, running a longstanding OB/GYN practice and bringing in new policies, like opening up delivery rooms for fathers. 

“You are now part of that commitment.” — Dr. Margaret Steele

Individuals from within and outside of the Faculty of Medicine also addressed Memorial’s newest medical students.

“You’re here today to reflect and to honour the values that guide the medical profession,” said Dr. Anna Nippard, a first-year medical resident at Memorial.

Dr. Steele also spoke about the commitment the students made to their communities by entering medical school. Their new white coats are a symbol of their and Memorial’s service to their patients, families and communities, she said.

“We have promised to engage with and listen to the people and populations we serve, connecting our research, teaching and learning, and service priorities with their health needs and concerns,” Dr. Steele said. “You are now part of that commitment.”

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