2020 White Coat Ceremony remarks by Dr. Vivek Murthy

The Gold Foundation, in collaboration with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and The Vilcek Foundation, is pleased to share a moving keynote address for medical schools’ 2020 White Coat Ceremony delivered by Dr. Vivek Murthy, the 19th Surgeon General of the United States and the 2020 Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare recipient.

Dr. Murthy is introduced on this video jointly by three healthcare leaders: Dr. RIchard I. Levin, President & CEO of The Arnold P. Gold Foundation; Dr. David Skorton, President & CEO of the AAMC; Dr. Jan Vilcek, CEO & Chairman of The Vilcek Foundation. This Vilcek-Gold Award shines a spotlight on immigrant leaders in U.S. healthcare and recognizes the positive impact that humanistic care has on public health. A shared initiative between the two foundations, the Vilcek-Gold Award embodies the missions of both the Vilcek Foundation and the Gold Foundation.

Dr. Murthy received the 2020 Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare for his multi-faceted approach to addressing the opioid crisis in the United States, and for his continued advocacy and support of human- and community-centered care.

Dr. Murthy has served as a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and founded multiple nonprofit organizations, including VISIONS, a peer-to-peer HIV/AIDS education program in India and the United States, and Doctors for America, a network of more than 18,000 physician and medical student members dedicated to creating a high quality, affordable health care system for all. He is also a Gold National Humanism in Medicine Medal honoree and a Gold Humanism Honor Society member.

His first book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, was published in April 2020.

In his White Coat Ceremony remarks to students, Dr. Murthy draws on the themes from his book and urges students to cherish their connections with friends and family. “Despite all the uncertainties and the ups and downs you will encounter in the years ahead,” he says, “my hope is that you will always make your relationships your top priority. Our relationships are our anchors. Keep them close. Fight for them.”

The Gold Foundation established the White Coat Ceremony in 1993. The iconic ritual provides an important emphasis on compassionate, collaborative, scientifically excellent care from the very first day of training. It has become a hallmark of the beginning of healthcare training in schools around the world.

In 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many White Coat Ceremonies shifted to a virtual or hybrid ceremony. In recognition of this challenging time, the Gold Foundation worked with its partners to create video keynote addresses that brought important messages from leaders of humanism in healthcare to new medical and nursing students.

In his final thought in his virtual remarks, Dr. Murthy tells students: “I want you to know right here and right now, that the most important qualities you need to be a healer are the ones you had even before you entered medical school: your ability to care deeply for others, your ability to listen with compassion, your ability to lead with love.”