Tell me about your white coat ceremony?

Hi, all. Hard to believe that my first year is winding down already. My school has begun looking for a student to coordinate the orientation for next year's MS-1 class, and while I don't have enough cruise director in me to do that job, I do want to weigh in on the white coat ceremony. It was a letdown for me last year (not only was the ceremony an anticlimactic ordeal, but my wife and three little boys were made to feel unwelcome - something I'll always resent), and I want to see what can be done to make it more meaningful and memorable for those that follow me.
I remember reading about the ceremonies that Nat Belle and Joe Wright had, and would appreciate hearing from others. What did your school do to make the white coat ceremony memorable?
Thanks in advance.
Bill Fredette

I'm just curious… what did they do to make you feel uncomfortable?
What was your match ceremony like?

It was my wife and three sons who were made to feel unwelcome. The school never mentioned a “no family” policy, and so they drove about an hour to the school on the afternoon of the first day of orientation to see me get my coat. The boys are young - 2,4 and 7 at the time, but they were real champions - sat way up in the back of the auditorium and never made a sound. At one point, though, when things were getting a bit long, my wife ushered them to the lobby for some fresh air and there met a doctor from the institution who told them that “family isn’t invited to this ceremony.” She was a little reluctant to tell me about this later on, and when she did, I was pretty furious. My wife and kids are making a greater sacrifice than I am so that I can do this, and they deserved to have enjoyed the official beginning.
As for the ceremony. It was the final event on a long hot day and it followed a two hour session in which we discussed the school’s honor code in small groups and then reconvened to have each small group report on what it had discussed. That amounted to an hour of embarrassed spokespeople reiterating what the person from the previous group had just said. Then they got to the cloaking. They read each student’s name and that person walked down to the front of the classroom/auditorium to have a second-year put on the coat. After about the 10th name, there was so much chatter between the first and second year students in the seats that no one could hear any more names.
All in all, I thought it was pretty poorly handled. That moment is important and it was more or less lost. But I think things can be improved for next year’s students, and I want to try to improve them.
So again, any lore/traditions/what have you would be appreciated. Thanks!

I can tell you about my White Coat ceremony. It was a very memorable day. First, during the summer they sent us with our orientation packets invitations that we could send to family/friends (they had earlier asked us how many we would need). During orientation week, we were double checked for our caot sizes (which, again, we had submitted with other info earlier in the summer). Not everyone had judged right, so some coats didn’t fit perfectly… but overall it was a good way of doing it. We picked our coats up the last day of Orientation. Then we had to iron them. And we learned that you CAN’T get all the wrinkles out. It isn’t possible. But nobody knew that everyone else was having the same problem. The ceremony was held at the large banquet/meeting center on campus, on a Sunday. We had to be there somewhat early. We went to a “staging” room, while our guests took their seats in the hall. Then we were all shown how to fold our coats to carry in, so we all marched in with our coats laying across our arms identically. We are broken into “mentor groups” that we stay with the whole first year, meeting every other week with our mentor. We had been in these groups during orientation, and we were lined up with them. As we entered the room, coats neatly hanging over our left arms we were introduced individually. Each mentor put the coat on his or her “mentees”, which I though was kind of nice- this was the first time we met our mentors. Then the Dean shook our hands and we walked across the stage. At the other end we were presented with some stuff, including the book “On Doctoring”, and a pin by the assistant dean. Then we filed around and took our seats. After that, there were various speakers from the faculty. They talked about our class (the demographic specifics), and did things like having everyone in the class who had worked overseas raise their hand, everyone who was married, everyone who spoke a foreign language, etcetera, to give an idea of the things our class had done in our previous lives. Then, after generally praising us and making our parents and friends proud, they had us read a student version of the Hippocratic Oath. There was a program with each students name, of course. Then, they marched us out again, wearing our white coats. There was a buffet afterwards, outdoors (fortunately the weather was lovely). Lots of photographs were taken. I had been told in advance that the White Coat Ceremony was memorable, so my parents came from out of state (amazing that even as an “Older PreMed” having my parents there was special). They were very happy they had done so. They had also let us know about what time it would be done, for those of us that wanted to make dinner reservations somewhere. The only negative was that this was Sunday afternoon, and classes began the next day. It was the only thing scheduled for that day, and it was made clear that it WAS a family event. There were lots of tears in the audience. It was a neat ceremony, and a really neat memory. In fact, in our school magazine, there was an article and pictures. It was just a neat thing. I am so sorry that your experience and that of your family was not as enjoyable. I hope you can do something to improve the experience for the incoming students.

My experience was not as bad as yours, but it was a let down. My family was not able to participate because my 1 yeard old was not about to sit still that long. I hate going to cermonies where each indivudal has their name read and walks across the stage. I also recognize the importance of recognizing everyone individually. I'm not sure what the solution is here.
I will offer some advice on other aspects. While we were going through orientation-type stuff, my school had a luncheon for the parents and spouses. From what I hear it was pretty enjoyable. They gave presentations about what to expect from te perspectives of parents and spouses of current students.
I have been to similar events before that I thought id a great job of supporting families w/ young children. They had a camera set up so that familes could watch the cermony from and adjacent banquet room that had multiple TVs around the room (portables brought in for the occasion). The room was very open and the kids could run around and be kids and nobody had to miss Dad/Mom's big moment. While this is not a great solution, I was really impressed at the message this sent about the school willing to go out of the way to recognize the families.
I know that many ceremonies take a few moments to officially recognize all of the parents and applaud them. I think it would be nice to recognize the spouses and children also.
Good luck!
Trey Wood

The white coat ceremony at UNECOM is a quite formal event. It is not performed during orientation, but is instead reserved until early October. It is a stand alone event with a nice reception after. Families are definately encouraged, but as an evening event, it does get a bit late for the younger ones.
They rent a reception hall in a local hotel, and have a good selection of food, as well as a cash bar. Speaches by the chapter SOMA president, some school dignitary types, and at least one notable person from the Osteopathic community. All in all, very nice. But a bit beyoond the planning expectations of a student orientation chairperson.
Steve Y. (olde pharte MSII- UNECOM)

Hi there,
I can tell you about our Short White Coat Ceremony at Howard from two perspectives; Receiver of White Coat and Physician Giving Short White Coat.
Receiver of White Coat: Our Short White Coat Ceremony is held on Friday evening of Orientation Week. It is definitely a family affair. Family and friends are encouraged to come and participate. Since we are located in Washington, DC, we are able to hook some pretty neat speakers. Dr. Benjamin Carson, chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University was the speaker at my ceremony. He spoke of excellence in medicine. At the end of his speech, we each filed across the stage and were cloaked by either a member of the clinical faculty or a graduate of Howard University College of Medicine. My cloaker was Clive O. Callender, M.D. the chairman of the Department of Surgery and my faculty advisor throughout medical school. We follow the ceremony with a reception, complete with champagne in the lobby of the Medical School. We were all scared to death.

Physician Cloaking: Each year, a member of Howard University College of Medicine's most recently graduated class is invited back to cloak some of the incoming freshmen students. I had worked with the Admissions Committee during three years of medical school conducting tours. I had also been a peer tutor for both the Medical and Dental schools in Anatomy and Biochemistry. This past year, I was asked to come back to do some cloaking. The speaker for the ceremony was former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders. She was a hoot to listen to and gave a rousing speech about serving the needy in medicine. When they called my name to come come up to cloak, I got a rousing standing ovation. I almost broke out in tears. I had driven the 100 miles from Charlottesville after being on call the night before. I was standing there in my UVa name badge with Deparment of Surgery sweating on stage under the lights. I was overwhelmed. The idea that I was a physician was really sinking in at this point. I had achieved what 125 folks sitting there in the audience were hoping to do. I had come full circle. I ended up cloaking five or six students but the one student that I cloaked that was the most emotional was a person who had been a member of the Class of 2002 when I started. She had ended up failing two courses and failed again in summer school and was dismissed from medical school. She has gotten married, become a mother, taken some advanced study skills and courses and had been re-admitted for the Class of 2006. Our Dean of students asked me to cloak her and I was so proud of her because she never gave up.
It was cool to meet Dr. Elders at the reception after the ceremony and it was totally awesome to see all of the folks who were sophomores, juniors and seniors after I had graduated. Everyone wanted to know about residency and if I was prepared.
Our Short White Coat ceremony ranks up there with graduation.

Any school that has a policy that families are not welcome at the white coat ceremony should have an uprising of the students until that policy changes. It is ridcuilous…the family has supported and helped the students get there. It would be really awesome if the school could help find some reliable on site child care for the little ones…folks who are new to a city can't find a baby sitter that fast. (another room in the same buliding would be good)
Ours took place at a large church. We filed in with coats draped identically, in alphabetical order. Demographic and previous careers/activites were discussed without giving names (eg we have graduates from these institutions, and the class has a former navy seal, a golf pro, 3 pilots…)
We were called alphabetically and coat put on by a dean. There was a speech. Afterward was a very nice reception at another location. Families were very welcome, and the deans who attended the reception met students and familes alike.
I don't have any kids, but one of my friends had a 2 year old at the time, who made some noise during the ceremony. The kid was way in the back, and I didn't remember hearing it. The only way I knew was cuz my friend said that it was his kid making noise. I think he was more in tune to the sound of his kid. THere were a few little ones running around, not many. There will be a lot more at graduation, which is also open for anyone we want to have come. As was our match day (in fact, several surgery residents came…the only department whose residents came to support the students in their field!)

QUOTE (md03 @ Apr 20 2003, 04:02 AM)
Any school that has a policy that families are not welcome at the white coat ceremony should have an uprising of the students until that policy changes.

Oh, they just might... biggrin.gif
I'm really hoping to change things for next year's class. I also want to make sure that there are some pull-out sessions during the orientation for non-traditional students/students with families. While Albany is actually quite friendly to non-traditionals in the application process, they treated everyone identically during the orientation, which left some of us with unaddressed questions and worries.
I appreciate all of the feedback here. Thanks, guys!

Hi Folks,
Next Friday, I will journey up to Washington, DC to be one of the graduate physician cloakers for the Howard University College of Medicine White Coat Ceremony. I am hoping to be joined by Alyson Chadwick who will be coming as my guest for the ceremony. She will get a chance to meet some of the members of the Class of 2007 for Howard University College of Medicine.
I am planning on spending most of the day running around Howard and Washington, DC since I have been granted the day off from University of Virginia. Believe me, it has been a very, very short road from getting my short White Coat in 1998 to acting Chief resident of the Blue (Colo-Rectal/Endocrint) Surgery service at the University of Virginia.
I have been spending whole days in the operating room without having to worry about taking care of floor work. We have two interns who are doing a very good job and a three medical students. I have been having a great time though I feel like I need more experience. I have the back-up of four great attending physicians who answer my questions and listen to what I have to say. Life is good. I am grateful for all of the experience at the VA because down there, I had to play a similiar role.
It will be great to see everyone at Howard. I try to get back for this ceremony every year. It helps to keep me centered.
Natalie cool.gif

There was a very interesting (in my opinion) article about white coats in general, and about white coat ceremonies, in the most recent edition of “New Physician” (the same one with the article about Old Man Dave). It is an interesting read, and thought provoking. I thought the point of view by the dean of UF about first years not “deserving” the coats, and not having any practical reason for them was unique. I could see his point about not deserving them, perhaps, but as for not having any practical reason for them-- well, I guess that varies by school and how early they do clinical things (if I’m examing a patient at the hospital as a second year, I’m not sure why I’d need a white coat less than a third year doing the same exam and history.)
In general, though, I’ve wondered about the wearing of the coats in different situations; I’ve watched our faculty and seen how some always wear one, and some never wear one. We (students) are required to wear ours at nearly all clinical experiences (with both simulated and real patients), but not with teens and not in experiences that take us to patients homes.
I’d be interested to hear what other schools do, beyond the few that were represented in the article. What the opinions of the community here? I find many of the issues related to the wearing or not wearing of a white coat (at whatever stage of career), such as creating barriers, very interesting and a bit challenging.

Hi there,
When I was at Mayo Clinic last year, physicians wore business attire for all patient encounters except on our operating days, we would change into our scrubs before morning rounds and breakfast to save time. After changing into scrubs, I wore a white lab coat over my scrubs outside the OR for protection. Otherwise, I wore a business suit in clinic and for rounds on non-operating days.
At UVa, I wear my long white coat to cover scrubs outside the OR. On clinic days, I could generally get away with wearing my business clothes but I have a role as consult resident on one clinic day that requires scrubs so I am generally wearing scrubs under a long white lab coat. Medical students are required to wear short white coats on all patient encounters. They may wear scrubs in the OR but not in clinic or on rounds.
At Howard, I was required to wear a short white coat (until my long white coat ceremony) at all patient encounters. Howard has the same rules as UVa in terms of scrubs but I could get away with scrubs on rotations like Gastroenterology because I did procedures.
I do believe that medical students should understand the meaning behind the white coat. White Coat ceremonies serve to remind all of us the priviledge to practice medicine. Our White Coat ceremony places great emphasis on honor and humanism in medicine. In a vast majority of cases, the students more than get the message. Howard is a very cooperative medical school. The only person that you are in competition with is yourself. Yes, there are class rankings but you can’t knock anyone out of a rank unless you improve yourself.
If there is a great handout for biochemistry or micro, your classmates are very likely to make copies and hand them out to the entire class. Folks help other folks who are having trouble more often than not. Most study groups are impromptu and most folks make a concerted effort to help others both behind and in front of them. There is great cohesiveness between classes and among classmates. We have all gone through the struggle together.
I note that there is a vast difference between Howard and UVa in terms of cohesiveness. There is more of a sense of entitlement among the UVa students. There are also more legacies at UVa than at Howard. The student body is far more diverse at Howard than UVa. The average UVa student is likely to be traditional, white, male and upper middle class. The average student at Howard is likely to be female, latina and middle-class. (The Latino delegation is the largest at Howard).
White Coat ceremonies are great to get the incoming folks into the medicine community. At Howard, the community is invited along with students and families. This makes for a great program. The incoming freshman students get a good welcoming because on Monday, they will start classes. It is the end of orientation week for them.
Natalie smile.gif

Our “White Coat” ceremony (MSM) is in about three weeks…I’ll post info about how it went then. What I do know is that we’ve already been encouraged to invite family and we’ve also reviewed the oath we’ll be using (revised hippocratic).
Just for general interest, here is a website giving the oaths used by many schools (or the oaths written by students).
AMA medical oaths
Till then!!

QUOTE (njbmd @ Aug 22 2003, 12:46 PM)
(The Latino delegation is the largest at Howard).

Viva la Raza! (Sorry, off topic I know but I had just had the urge).

At the Univ of Maryland, we received our white coats in mid-November, after completing Anatomy. Like Natalie's ceremony, ours focused on welcoming us into the medical profession, reminding us of our responsibility to uphold the standards of humanism and professionalism. Prior to the ceremony (while the families were arriving), pictures of our class from orientation through anatomy were projected and our families got to see us in action. While it was a very moving ceremony, it was unfortunate that we were each limited to only two guests due to limited seating space in the auditorium. However, being from the first generation in my family to have college graduates, much less have someone become a physician, my mom was in tears. In some ways the ceremony is as much for them as it is for us.
We receive our coats during first year because we too are required to wear them for all patient encounters (minus when scrubs are appropriate) and we begin conducting actual patient histories throughout the first year. At Maryland we do not touch a patient until second year during our Physical Diagnosis course because the focus during first year is that you can learn so much from a patient if you listen to them.

Thanks to Natalie for bringing me along. I hope to attend as an incoming student in 2005!