Medical Alumni Association

A Pinning Tradition

California State Senator Richard Pan, MD, PhD (MED’91), started his political work early – he was medical class president for both his junior and senior years at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Pan, who holds dual degrees from both Pitt Med and the Graduate School of Public Health, had a chance to reminisce about life in Scaife Hall when he attended his medical class alumni reunion in September.

During his tour of Scaife, Dr. Pan was transported back to the early 90s and recalled how his tenure as class president helped to transform what is now known as the Third Year Pinning Ceremony into what it is today. At Pitt Med, third year students have always taken part in a day of Professionalism and Humanitarianism training, culminating in a ceremony to mark the transition of students from the classroom into more patient-oriented work. It serves as a visible and concrete reminder of the importance behind all patient care.

Understanding the significance of this milestone, Dr. Pan suggested making a change. “Before the pinning, third year students received a tie or a scarf during this ceremony, which seemed impractical to wear each day. Our class officers decided to make something that was easier to add to a white coat for rotations.”

This simple suggestion led to the creation of a pin that has become a symbol of progression in the lives of all medical students at the University of Pittsburgh. Each time they look at their white coat that dons the gold circular pin with the words “University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine” surrounding a caduceus they are reminded of the values they learned during the day of Professionalism and Humanitarianism. The Third Year Pinning Ceremony, with an attendance that rivals the White Coat Ceremony for first year students, remains fully funded thanks to the MAA Student Resource Fund – due to the generosity of our alumni and friends – along with assistance from Student Affairs.

Although Dr. Pan has achieved numerous prestigious honors since then, including receiving the 2010 Physician Humanitarian Award from the Medical Board of California, the distinction of having helped to create the third year pin has remained with him for his entire career.

For more articles about Dr. Pan’s career, or for information about the 3rd year pinning ceremony, please visit: or