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White Coat Ceremony - 1999 Ceremony

From: SOMNews, February 2000

Is there a single defining moment when a medical student feels like a doctor? Some would say there is and that it's the moment that a student dons the white coat.

The third annual White Coat Ceremony was held on Saturday morning, December 4, 1999, at the MSTF Auditorium. Jack Gladstein, MD, Associate Dean of Student Affairs moderated the ceremony. Speakers included Dean Wilson, Joann A. Boughman, PhD, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Frank M. Calia, MD, Vice Dean, and Gary Plotnick, MD, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. Also on the agenda were Miriam G. Blitzer, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Shawn W. Robinson, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Sharon Henderson, President of the Class of 2000, and Richard Taylor, MD, President of the Medical Alumni Association.

The white coat, a traditional symbol of the medical clinician and scientist, has come to represent the knowledge, skill and integrity of the medical profession. The white coat ceremony recognizes the students' entry into the medical profession and welcomes them as junior colleagues.

The acceptance of the white coat by the students is their affirmation that, along with acquiring the requisite knowledge, they also accept the responsibility for developing and maintaining professional attitudes and behaviors in their work and in their relationships with classmates, teachers, patients, and the community.

Words of congratulation, encouragement and wisdom were imparted by the faculty. Dean Wilson reflected on how proud he felt the first time he put on his white coat and how the medical profession has changed since he was in medical school. "Medical knowledge has exploded," Dr. Wilson said. "Things that weren't even yet thought of when I was in medical school -- transplantation, genetic engineering, physician-assisted suicide -- are now commonplace. If there is one thing you must never, ever forget, it is this: In every patient, there is a person."

Vice Dean Calia reminded students that as they partake of this classic initiation rite, they must always be sensitive to diversity and to the culture differences that exist among patients. And Dr. Plotnick said the simplest, but perhaps most profound, thing: "The secret of patient care is caring for the patient."

White Coat Ceremony

Dr. Robinson lamented the fact that his medical school did not have a white coat ceremony -- only about 10 percent of American medical schools have an official ceremony -- and said that he felt "there was something missing in my transition from college student to medical student. But today, ready or not," he said, "you are now officially a member of the medical community. A basic tenet to live by is this: Treat your patients as you would like to be treated."

Fourth year student Sharon Henderson told the first year students that she, too, was a bit envious because the School of Medicine began the white coat ceremony in her second year. Henderson said, "I purchased my white coat in the basement of the hospital, but didn't yet understand the responsibilities that went with the coat. Receiving your white coat today marks the beginning of a path you will travel for many, many years."

After the ceremony, the white-coated students had a group photograph taken on the steps of Health Science Facility I, and then repaired to the MSTF atrium for breakfast with their colleagues, teachers, and families.