GREENVILLE — The newest class of students in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University were officially welcomed during the school’s annual White Coat Ceremony on Friday.

The 90 members of the Class of 2027 — all North Carolina residents — were helped into their white coats during the traditional celebration at the Health Sciences Student Center and regaled with messages and well wishes from Brody faculty and leadership.

The Class of 2027, the largest class in Brody history, hails from 36 North Carolina counties and 26 undergraduate institutions; 61% of the class is female, 16% are first-generation college students, and 21% are from minority groups — Black, Native American and Hispanic or Latino — that the Association of American Medical Colleges considers “underrepresented in medicine.” Four are veterans, and four were collegiate student athletes. The class speaks a total of 23 languages.

One New Student Has Ties to NCMS

The Class of 2027 includes a student whose family has already built a legacy in eastern North Carolina health care.

Grant Irons is the great-grandson of regional health care pioneers Fred and Malene Irons and the grandson of Tom Irons, professor emeritus of pediatrics at Brody, medical director of Access East and the N.C. Agromedicine Institute, and interim medical director of physician assistant studies. Tom Irons is a long standing member of NCMS and a past chair of the CPP Advisory Board.

Tom Irons, left, smiles as he stands with his grandson, Thomas Grant Irons III, after receiving his white coat Friday.

Tom Irons, left, smiles as he stands with his grandson, Thomas Grant Irons III, after receiving his white coat Friday.

Grant Irons was born and raised in Greenville and attended UNC–Chapel Hill, where he earned a degree in biology with minors in chemistry and health and society.

“It is truly humbling to carry on my family’s legacy here in eastern North Carolina,” he said. “I was lucky enough to spend time with my great-grandparents, Drs. Fred and Malene Irons. As I’ve grown up, I continue to learn more about their work and the impact they had on health infrastructure in eastern North Carolina. Their legacy demonstrates the impact of servant leadership. My late grandmother and grandfather, better known as Carol Irons and Dr. Tom Irons, continued this tradition of selfless service. I would not be the man I am today without their guidance as I aim to hold myself to their standard; a life lived with compassion, and humility.”

Tom Irons said he could not be prouder of his grandson’s desire to serve as a physician.

“I’m Grant’s only living grandparent, but I like to believe that today the other three are wearing smiles as big as mine,” he said. “His parents and I could not be more grateful that he has been given this opportunity, or prouder that he has chosen to come to Brody and eastern North Carolina.”

He added that he encourages his grandson and Grant’s classmates to follow their hearts.

“There is nothing easy about this journey you have undertaken, but if you put your heart into it, the rewards will be immeasurable,” he said. “Keep your head down these first two years, lean on each other, ask for help when you need it and never forget that there is no life more noble than a life of service.”

Grant is eager to live out a legacy and mirror his grandfather’s ideals and impact in medicine — but he is also ready to make his own name through the medical school that represents a life goal.

“The opportunity to be a student at Brody means the world to me; it has been a dream of mine for some time,” he said.

Grant Irons sees the bigger picture of eastern North Carolina’s health care landscape and also plans to make a difference through policy.

“Regardless of my career path, I have long been interested in health policy,” he said. “Initially, I was exposed to the importance of institutions through my family. Since I was old enough to understand, I have been fortunate enough to learn about care disparities and their impact on health outcomes.”

As a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, Irons explored the relationship between power, policy and differential health outcomes. He helped lead a chapter of PIH-Engage, a global health organization dedicated to building sustainable health infrastructure. That experience has led him to lead on a variety of fronts.

“As a physician I want to be more than a care provider; I hope to be a leader in my community,” he said. “While significant progress has and continues to be made, care expansion efforts are far from over. There are far too many people still in need.”

To read more about the students and this years class click here.