The Arnold P. Gold Foundation designed the White Coat Ceremony to welcome entering medical students and help them to establish a personal contract for the practice of medicine. The event emphasizes the importance of compassionate care for the patient as well as scientific proficiency.
The very first White Coat Ceremony was held in 1993 at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. Currently, a White Coat Ceremony or similar rite of passage takes place at 96% of AAMC-accredited schools of medicine in the United States, as well as at osteopathic schools of medicine and at schools abroad.
This year, on the 20th anniversary of the first ceremony, we asked students what they hope to remember about their White Coat Ceremonies four years from now. They had such eloquent answers:
“I really hope to remember the general sense of excitement and pride that the students and parents shared with each other. All of the students I saw were beaming, of course, but the family members I met seemed just as excited. I’m sure medicine will feel isolating at times, but it’s important to remember that we are part of a supportive community of other physicians and the people that love us.” — Amulya Iyer, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Class of 2017
“I hope I am able to remember the mix of emotions and thoughts that I experienced and attempted to reconcile that day. I first felt pride that I had finally arrived at medical school after arduous tests, prerequisites, and interviews. But at the same, I felt a fear — a fear of the vastness of the large tradition in front of me, the difficulty of medicine at times, and my desire to maintain the energy, hope, empathy, and optimism. But overwhelmingly, I felt an incredible warmth from those all around me. The white coat ceremony truly reminded me of the power of the profession of medicine, and if I keep that in mind, I will be able to reconcile the ups and downs of this journey.” — Jana Christian, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Class of 2017
“In 4 years, I hope that I remember the sense of hope and inspiration that I felt for our generation of doctors; Dr. Gold’s warmth and gravitas despite his physical stillness; Dr. Kelly’s injunction to care for each patient like the person that we love most that day; Dr. Mukherjee’s reminder that life as experienced by physicians is complicated and does not lend itself to simple lessons; and the way that I felt so daunted — and yet so right — to speak the oath in that new mantle.” — Joseph Shivers, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Class of 2017
“To be bestowed the honor of the white coat is a unique opportunity to share in the lives of my fellow men and women, lives that can be rich in health or shattered in pain. As I looked to my left and to my right, I wondered how we, the next generation of healers, would honor the task this ancient profession has been commissioned with; to make whole again what is broken.” — Evan Torline, 2nd LT, U.S. Army, University of Louisville School of Medicine Class of 2017
“I want to remember how I felt so happy to reach the point where I could finally say I was a medical student, a goal of mine for years. Most of all, I want to remember how nervous and excited I was, as well as full of hope. I was nervous of the long road ahead of me, the high amount of information I need to learn and absorb in four years. I was excited to start learning everything I need to know to become a great physician. And most of all I was full of hope that I can make a difference in the world. This hope stemmed from the many experiences I had prior to medical school and how they have inspired me to move forward in my career. — Natalie Strokes, A.T. Still University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona, Class of 2017
Four years from now, I hope to remember the honor that I felt to be joining such an elite group of professionals, the over-whelming excitement that I achieved my goal of getting into medical school, the feeling that I was still dreaming, and the joy of my fellow colleagues. I also hope to remember the promise that I made to myself to do my absolute best in medical school and residency so that I can live my dream of becoming an amazing physician who touches lives and does something to change the world. After all, we only go this way once. — J.Chika Morah, University of Toledo College of Medicine in Ohio, Class of 2017
Other questions our medical student bloggers have answered:
- When working with your cadaver, did you or your team do anything specific to humanize, or de-humanize, the body?
- Have you had any community service experiences that have influenced the way you think about a career in medicine?
- How can you tell if a medical school has a humanistic approach?
- How can medical training encourage more humanistic interactions with patients?