This past Tuesday, we officially welcomed the new first-year students in the Class of 2019 to our school and the medical profession at their White Coat Ceremony.
A relatively new tradition, the White Coat Ceremony first took place at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1993 and was designed by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation to emphasize the importance of professionalism at the very beginning of a medical student’s lifelong journey of service to and care for others. Students are formally presented with a short white laboratory coat recognizing their entry into the medical profession, not to mention the great responsibility that comes along with it.
At our school, each second year student personally cloaks a new first year student with his or her new white coat (loaded with much needed candy, Starbucks gift cards, and words of advice in the pockets!) in front of their one hundred forty future classmates, the second year class and other upperclassmen, school Deans and administrators, and family and friends watching remotely from a separate auditorium and from their computers at home. After each new doctor-to-be has had his or her shining moment, all students and physicians in attendance recite the Hippocratic Oath, reminding ourselves of and promising to uphold and live out the ethical standards of the medical profession.
Meeting my first year student’s parents and sister, helping take group pictures of the smiling and eager first year students and their new friends, and witnessing the genuine joy and love of their families and friends who had come from all over the country to support their sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, fiancés and friends was a much-needed reminder of how special it really is to be in my position, to be studying to become a doctor.
Reminiscing on my own medical school journey thus far made me equally excited for their imminent triumphs and apprehensive for their inevitable struggles in their days ahead but also encouraged me to reflect on the lessons I have learned and ways I had grown since I began school. It’s so easy to get lost in, perhaps even frustrated with, the hours and hours of lectures to absorb and huge piles of notes to master that never seems to shrink (and we’re only three weeks into second year!), but as I retreated to my favorite study spot thinking about that afternoon’s events, I was much energized to attack my studies than I was in the days before.