Screenshot by NPR; Video: Brendan Scorpio
On Sunday night at the University of Michigan Medical School’s annual white coat ceremony, incoming medical students recited oaths, received their white coats – then dozens of them walked out.
At issue was the keynote speaker: Dr. Kristin Collier, a Michigan faculty member and primary care physician who has spoken publicly about her Christian beliefs and anti-abortion views.
In a video posted online, dozens of students can be seen walking out of the auditorium as Collier began her address. The video, recorded and posted by Detroit resident Brendan Scorpio, has been viewed more than 11 million times.
Incoming medical students walk out at University of Michigan’s white coat ceremony as the keynote speaker is openly anti-abortion pic.twitter.com/Is7KmVV811
— Scorpiio (@PEScorpiio) July 24, 2022
In an interview with NPR, Scorpio, who attended the ceremony to support a friend in the incoming medical student class, estimated that roughly 70 of the 170 incoming students walked out, followed by some friends and family “in solidarity.”
In total, he guessed, 35 to 40% of the audience took part in the walkout.
“The overall message that the students wanted to push was that reproductive rights, abortion, is health care,” Scorpio said. “Reproductive rights for anyone who is able to give birth are incredibly important and should be something that’s allowed to everyone in the country.”
In an emailed statement, the University of Michigan said that Collier was chosen for the keynote address through a system of nominations and voting by a medical school honor society.
“The White Coat Ceremony is not a platform for discussion of controversial issues,” the school’s statement said. “Dr. Collier never planned to address a divisive topic as part of her remarks. However, the University of Michigan does not revoke an invitation to a speaker based on their personal beliefs.”
The university remains “committed to providing high quality, safe reproductive care for patients, across all their reproductive health needs,” including abortion care, the statement said.