Graduation is supposed to be one of the proudest, happiest moments of all time. It’s a milestone in your life. It marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. What a special and joyous occasion. It’s bittersweet too—parting ways with friends you’ve shared much with over the last several years. Graduation—such special feelings as your hard work becomes reality as you vow to abide by the Hippocratic oath and officially become MD.
Let’s talk about the long coat ceremony. I remember when I entered medical school and received my short white coat during a special ceremony. It was emotional in the best of ways. Then, during my third year, we were upgraded to short white coats with our names to celebrate the next milestone—clinical rotations. And now—the most awaited—the long coat.
Growing up, I always thought doctors were superheroes. They must be as they dedicate themselves to lifelong learning and service. The long white coat is their superhero cape. Physicians heal and care—what better superpower than that? What an honor to receive your superhero cape—your long coat? It signifies your dedication to your profession and that you have earned and claimed your rite of passage as you embark on your training as a resident physician and then attending physician.
And then it hit me like a bus—I won’t get to experience this. It’s not supposed to be like this. It isn’t fair.
I never expected to become a physician in the middle of a global pandemic. I always imagined and dreamed about how special and precious my long coat ceremony and graduation day would be as I share it with the people I care for and love the most with all of my beautiful letters of hard work behind my name. I deserve and want to celebrate what I have worked so incredibly hard for. Is that too much to ask?
Whether it’s my phone, laptop, radio, TV, anything really—I only hear one thing: COVID-19. It’s everywhere. I can’t even have a conversation with anyone anymore without that being discussed in the first few minutes. It’s hard. I don’t want to complain when I know amazing physicians are out there on the front lines sacrificing so much. Part of me just wants to mope and have a never-ending pity party.
But an even bigger part of me is optimistic and hopeful. I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. I believe that everything happens for a reason. So yeah, maybe I won’t have special memories of a long coat ceremony and graduation ceremony. But I know this—I get to care for others. That is why I pursued medicine. I am loved and supported by my family and friends. And all of those reasons are enough.
It is my greatest honor and pleasure to sign this post as…
Avani K. Patel, MD, MHA