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

A medical student answers questions about what her white coat ceremony was like in medical school.

Sarina Smin

Sarina Amin

Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Medical School: University of Central Florida College of Medicine, 2013

The White Coat Ceremony was originated by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation specifically for entering medical students. At the ceremony, students are welcomed by their deans, the president of the hospital, or other respected leaders who represent the value system of the school and the new profession the students are about to enter. The white coat is placed on each student’s shoulders by individuals who believe in the students’ ability to carry on the noble tradition of doctoring.

 

When does the white coat ceremony take place?

The White Coat Ceremony at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine occurs on the very first day of orientation and sets the tone for the rest of our medical school experience. Our school holds the ceremony on the first day to emphasize that patient care really begins from the first day of medical school.

What was the atmosphere like? Are families invited?

The atmosphere was filled with excitement and anticipation. After spending hours in undergraduate years studying to prepare for medicine and striving to get into medical school, the day is finally upon you. The day not only marks the beginning of a medical career, but also the vow to become a lifelong learner as a physician.

From that day, each patient you meet will be a new experience and teach you about healing, illness, hardship and human emotion. Families are invited to witness and share the special moment with you.

What happens at the ceremony?

We have a unique White Coat Ceremony in that it serves as our first lesson in medical school. Our lesson is on the qualities of the “good doctor.” The dean of our school calls on each of us to provide one word that describes our vision of a good doctor, and all of the words are written on a chalkboard. The words that each incoming class provides are revisited throughout the four years of medical school to serve as a reminder to the students of what qualities make a good doctor.

My White Coat Ceremony was particularly unique because I am in the charter class for my school and all students in my class received full scholarships covering tuition and living expenses for all four years due to the generosity of the Orlando community. Our donors gave each of us our white coats, so it was definitely a special moment since we were meeting our donors for the first time.

What does the white coat symbolize to you?

The white coat marks the induction into the medical profession and the transition to becoming a part of the clinical team. It symbolizes the vow to provide comprehensive and compassionate patient care; the oath to define each patient as a person and not their illness; and the promise to keep the patient’s best interest at heart.

Do you have any tips or advice about the ceremony?

1. Remember that your photographs from the ceremony will be your memory of your entry to medical school, so dress appropriately! Generally, clinical attire is recommended. Wearing a suit jacket can be problematic when putting on the white coat.

2. Share the special day with your family and thank them for supporting you in your journey leading up to medical school; we often forget to thank those who supported us through the hard times.

3. Enjoy the day and take some time to reflect on your experience.

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