White Coat Ceremony: Just the Start

On Sunday, September 20, 181 first-year students at the UNC School of Medicine gathered in Memorial Hall for the White Coat Ceremony, an annual tradition that recognizes the beginning of their medical careers.

The new medical students were joined by many family members and UNC SOM faculty members who watched as the students received the first of their white coats, the garments that will forever distinguish them as physicians. Medical students receive short white coats, usually going just past the hips. Upon completion of their MD, these same students will receive their “long” white coat.

The ceremony began with a processional and the speaking program began with an address from Bill Roper, MD, MPH, Dean, UNC School of Medicine, CEO, UNC Health Care. Robert Bashford, MD, associate dean for admissions then offered remarks on this year’s new class of medical students. The event’s keynote address was delivered by Benjamin Gilmer, MD, assistant professor of education, Mountain Area Health Education Center.

Then, the white coats were formally presented to each student by Georgette Dent, MD, associate dean for student affairs.

A relatively recent addition to the medical school calendar, the first White Coat ceremony was held in 1993 at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. Thanks to the support of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the White Coat ceremony has become a rite of passage at medical schools across the country. In fact, 97 percent of AAMC-credentialed medical schools hold a white coat ceremony.

Unique to UNC, however, is the inspirational note that each student found tucked into his or her coat. Organized by the Medical Foundation, each student received a hand written note with “Words of Wisdom” from a UNC School of Medicine Alum.

After receiving their coats, the students recited “The Oath of Student Responsibilities.” The oath reads in part: “Knowing my own limitations and those of medicine, I commit myself to a lifelong journey of learning how to cure, to relieve, and to comfort with humility and compassion.” With these words fresh in their minds and new white coats on their backs, the students left Memorial Hall ready to face the challenges of the next four years of medical training.

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