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The Honor of White Coat

The sky is clear and the sun is beaming its warm rays upon the concrete and grass twinkling in dew. Girls walk around in light summer dresses and guys shuffle in their shoes, crisp shirts, and colored ties. The line of chattering parents beaming with pride and delight gather and accumulate outside the glass doors. There is a sense of excitement in the air. Anticipation. A new passage in life is beginning.

It’s the White Coat Ceremony.

This prestigious ceremony is a rite of passage for all students entering any field of healthcare. While it can be perceived as an ancient tradition, the white coat ceremony was actually started in 1989. Since then, hundreds of students have walked the stage and have been cloaked by older physicians. It is truly an honor.

The white coat is a major and well-known universal symbol. Regardless of where you go, people understand that this article of clothing usually means there is some sort of healthcare around and available. But while it is a universal symbol, the white coat tends to be perceived in many different ways. To little kids, the mere sight of a slip or corner of the coat makes them cry. They associate it with discomfort and pain. To adolescents and adults, the white coat could spike fear. Blood pressures rise. Or perhaps the white coat resembles an incoming wave of news – whether those news are good or bad is unknown, and the patient waits with baited breath. The coat could bring confusion or alarm to a population in a third world area. But yet, the white coat is also a symbol of hope. A projection of survival and health, and a symbol of recovery – whether it be emotionally, spiritually, or physically.

And now we are adorned with those white coats, and we now carry that symbolism.

Today, we were given very good advice by esteemed professionals/doctors. I hope to look back one day when I am stressed, confused, or just wanting reassurance or answers and remember the following great advice. Remember to never lose the reason why you came into medicine. Fight to increase and keep your compassion. Call home. Hold onto your hobbies. Stay close and true to your friends. Delight and invest in patients’ stories. Especially on a night where sleep has escaped you. Aspire. Believe. Have faith. Persevere. Educate. Learn. Grow.

The Hippocratic Oath [longer version than the one I recited]

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

-Written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University


Let us honor this oath. I am incredibly excited for all my friends taking on their white coats this year across the country, and even more excited for all of my friends who will enter the process in the future. I hope to one day practice beside all of you and make a difference. And to my UTHSCSA friends and classmates, I am even more excited to take on these next four years with you all. Let us live fully. Party hard. Study hard.

Looking forward,
-M

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