Medical Student Perspective: The White Coat Ceremony

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The White Coat Ceremony is a rite of passage for medical students, and was created by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 1993. During the ceremony, a white coat is placed on each student’s shoulders and often the Hippocratic Oath is recited, signifying their entrance into the medical profession.

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Photo courtesy of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
For every new medical student, the White Coat Ceremony holds a different meaning.  We asked three new medical students what their ceremony was like and what the white coat means to them.
“At my school, our White Coat Ceremony is held before we begin orientation, so this was the first time I met any of my classmates. I instantly found myself surrounded by warm, interesting individuals who were eager to establish a strong sense of camaraderie in the class. The speakers emphasized that we are not just students, but physicians-in-training.  Everything we learn over the next four years plays a direct role in how we will help our patients. The best lesson I took from my White Coat Ceremony was that even though medical school is tough, we are surrounded by family, friends, mentors, faculty, and peers who see our potential and will support us to ensure that we succeed. To me, my white coat symbolizes my commitment to serving humanity for the rest of my life and the opportunity I have to make real change in this world.”

-Tejasvi Gowda, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, class of 2020

“Growing up, doctors often felt superhuman to me. They must be, right? Not only do they dedicate themselves to lifelong learning and service, but they often serve as the voice of reason and as a comforting presence in difficult situations. But I’ve come to learn that the white coat is not a superhero cape. Instead, it is a symbol of something much greater; our commitment to take the best care of each other and of our patients. At Mount Sinai, each class of students writes their own oath, and this year, our oath read in part, ‘We, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Class of 2020, commit to promote a culture of wellness and mindfulness for ourselves, our peers, and the communities we serve.’ To me, this represents everything that modern medicine should be about. We are committed to not only give the best care to our patients but also to create a medical culture in which we support and look after our colleagues. As I watched my fellow med students get their coats on stage, I clapped and hollered for them. We had only known each other for a few weeks, but my heart was genuinely so full of pride for everyone. This is a difficult path that we have chosen to pursue, but we are bursting with potential. The White Coat Ceremony reminded me that none of us are alone during this journey, and I can’t wait to see where life takes us. We may not be superhuman, but with white coats draped over our shoulders and attached to our hearts, we can sure do a whole lot of good together.”

- Slavena Salve Nissan, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, class of 2020. Read more about Slavena’s ceremony. 

“As I looked around at my classmates, and the faculty who had once been in our shoes, I reflected on the path I’d taken to get here. Having had a hectic month before moving to Boston to start medical school, I saw the White Coat Ceremony as a fresh start and the beginning of my journey. I’d never had both of my parents attend a ceremony like this, so their mutual efforts to be there showed me how important it was. The powerful words spoken at the ceremony reminded me of how privileged we were to get this education. At my ceremony, I felt a huge wave of content and happiness. Among my peers there was a feeling that we’re all on the same side. It was at the ceremony that we truly saw that the focus of our school is to help 189 students become amazing doctors.”

-Amareen Dhaliwal, Boston University School of Medicine, class of 2020

Read more about What It's Like to Participate in the White Coat Ceremony.

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