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White Coat Ceremony: A rite of passage for medical students

White Coat Ceremony

The White Coat Ceremony is a medical school ritual held before or shortly after classes officially begin.

It is a sign that the medical student’s journey toward becoming a physician has begun.

John Rock of Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine states: “The White Coat Ceremony is their rite of passage, their formal introduction to the art of healing. Once they put their coats on, they will be changed forever.”

Richard Simons of Penn State College of Medicine, explains “The symbol of their entrance into the medical profession is designed to impress on students the need for compassion and empathy for patients.”

An announcement by University of Arizona explained that this ceremony serves in “acknowledging their entrance into the medical profession and the special bond they will have with patients, colleagues and teachers from the first day of medical school.”

Each White Coat Ceremony is unique. At the University of Arizona, the 115 first-year medical students will recite their class mission statement.  In Florida International University in Miami, the students are each given a stethoscope at their inaugural White Coat Ceremony.  At Penn State Hershey College of Medicine, students receive notes in the pockets of their white coats that were left by alumni.

The first full-fledged White Coat Ceremony was held in 1993 at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Over 100 medical schools in the United States now hold the ceremonies at the start of the year.

Their white coats are short, in order to distinguish them from doctors when doing their clinical rotations at hospitals.

What do you think? What does participating in the White Coat Ceremony mean to you?


Miami Herald


Arizona Daily Star

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