(WJLA) - This is the stuff of dreams for med students across the country - the day they get the long white coat, and the initials: M.D.
It's a sealed letter they wait for, stating where they will spend the next three to five years as medical residents.
They say this little white envelope will change your life forever. But for some medical students, the earth-shattering change has already happened.
The reason class president James Mann is being cloaked by his mentor and not his mother is because he lost her to a sudden heart attack in December. It's only coincidence that he planned all along to be a cardiologist.
"I want to be one more now," he says. "Number one killer of women: heart disease."
Alisha Williams wishes her father could witness this moment, but he died six years ago in a car crash. She believes their losses will make them more compassionate physicians:
"I am positive," she says. "There's nothing I can't do now. After four years of med school without him, there's nothing I can't accomplish now."
Mann credits the med school community for getting him through:
"It's a good feeling to be here with classmates who feel like extended family... [it's] taken so much to get here. I haven't slept much for the past four years."