What It's Like to Participate in the White Coat Ceremony

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Medical students answer questions about what their white coat ceremony was like in medical school.

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Headshot of medical student Jordan Konrad

Jordan Konrad

Undergraduate: Rutgers University-New Brunswick
Major: Biology
Medical school: Cooper Medical School of Rowan University
Anticipated Graduation Year: 2026

Bio: I grew up in Marlton, a quiet, suburban town in southern New Jersey close to Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU). It gave me a sense of purpose and familiarity with the tradition of excellence demonstrated by the University Hospital. The University Hospital has an excellent reputation and several of my family members have been treated there by their excellent staff. When CMSRU opened its doors in 2012, I knew I wanted to learn from the experts that treated my family with the utmost care and attending has allowed me to serve the community I grew up in. Recently, I was elected as the Social and Activities Wellness chair to CMSRU’s Student Government Association. In this role, I will coordinate events to help strengthen the relationships among classmates and provide a break from our rigorous study schedules. When I’m not studying, you can usually find me going for a run, participating in a trivia night at local restaurants, and cheering on the Philadelphia Phillies.

Headshot of medical student Jacob Metheny

Jacob Metheny

Undergraduate: Widener University
Major: Biology
Medical school: Cooper Medical School of Rowan University
Anticipated Graduation Year: 2026

Bio: A lifetime resident of Southern New Jersey, I love the outdoors, overcoming challenges, and learning new things. I decided I wanted to pursue a career in medicine as it involves intellectual, collaborative problem solving with a central goal of helping others. I enjoy knowing things and I cannot think of a more fascinating thing to know about than the human body. As my knowledge expands, so will my capacity to serve others. 

When does the white coat ceremony take place?

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University's white coat ceremony for medical students
Cooper Medical School of Rowan University's white coat ceremony for medical students

Jordan: Cooper Medical School of Rowan University holds its white coat ceremony after the first block exam of the school year. The event was timed perfectly, because it allowed my peers and I the chance to get to know each other and become acquainted with our medical school coursework.  Having the ceremony was the best reward for our hard work in the weeks following orientation.

The white coat ceremony at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) occurs about a month into the start of medical school on a Friday afternoon upon the completion of our first exam.

What was the atmosphere like? Are families invited?

Jordan: The atmosphere was filled with joy and anticipation as we each reflected upon the hard work that helped us get to where we are today. When I received my white coat, I was reassured that CMSRU believed in me as a student and trusted me to carry on its legacy as a physician. My immediate and extended family were able to attend and witness me take the Hippocratic Oath. CMSRU also live-streamed the event for those unable to attend in person.

Jacob: The timing of our white coat ceremony amplified the energy surrounding this symbolic step in our journeys to become physicians. The week prior, the anticipation of the event was tempered by the need to study for our first exam. After the exam, the tension was replaced by excitement for the upcoming ceremony and the sense of achievement that had diminished for me over that first month re-emerged.

What happens at the ceremony?

Medical students in white coats at a white coat ceremony
Medical students in white coats for the white coat ceremony at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

Jordan: Each student was given a freshly pressed white coat to place on their left arm as they walked into the auditorium. We were greeted by friends, families, and loved ones as well as peers and other mentors on stage. The guest speaker for our event was Dr. Emily Damuth, assistant professor of medicine and emergency medicine at CMSRU. She offered a unique and heartwarming perspective into the life of a medical professional. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked as a physician in the Emergency Department of Cooper University Hospital. She inspired the crowd with stories about how difficult it was to be expected to quickly understand the origin and treatment of a virus that initially, no one knew anything about. She complimented our class by noting how strong we are to choose to pursue a career in medicine despite the many challenges and obstacles we will face.

Something unique to our White Coat Ceremony is that after a clinician places the white coat on each student, they receive a Littman Stethoscope gifted by the Cooper University Health Care Medical Staff. We also received a book titled “Wonder Drug” written by CMSRU physicians, that highlighted the benefits of compassion and serving others.

Jacob: At CMSRU, our class is divided into four advisory colleges. We entered Pfleeger Concert Hall at Rowan University and organized into our respective groups. The students were individually called to the stage and then cloaked by their advisor. The ceremony concluded with a recitation of a modern Hippocratic Oath. It’s a tradition at CMSRU for students to find hand-written notes in the pockets of their white coats from mentors, family, and fellow students congratulating them on their achievements and encouraging them on the journey ahead. The event concluded with refreshments outside of the concert hall.

What does the white coat symbolize to you?

Jordan: My white coat symbolizes the commitment and willingness to serve others. While wearing a white coat, it is important to remember that patients instill a lot of trust in you. They look to you as their leader, confidant, and caretaker. As a physician, it is your responsibility to ensure each patient is heard and treated to the highest standard of care, while still maintaining humanism in practice. I am excited to wear my white coat and embrace these ideals in medical school and beyond.

Jacob: To me, putting on the white coat represents a commitment to be a professional who encourages collaboration, problem-solving, and continual learning. It is someone whose goal is to serve others and strive for excellence in patient care. The white coat ceremony gave my classmates and me a welcome that solidified our steps toward becoming physicians. 

Do you have any tips or advice about the ceremony?

Jordan:

  1. Get all your friends and family involved in the ceremony, whether it is in person or via live stream. These are the most important people in your life who will support you for the next four years, so use it as a time of celebration.
  2. Take plenty of pictures. My friends and I often joked that these are the photos we will look back upon years from now and show to our future families.

Jacob:

  1. Be sure to take plenty of pictures with your friends, family, and classmates.
  2. But don’t forget you’ll likely have access to the professional photos taken by your medical school after the ceremony.

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