Medical Family Day was held on November 5, 2015 at the Hilton in downtown Baltimore.
This special event, which was sponsored by the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, gives family members of first-year students a glimpse into what medical school is really like for the students. “Though our students have traveled different paths to this destination, we know that they have not traveled alone,” proclaimed E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, and Dean of the School of Medicine. “Nor, will they complete this next portion of their journey without your continued support, encouragement, understanding, and compassion. Very late at night you may receive phone calls that seek your listening ears, and I anticipate that your strong shoulders will be wept upon once or twice. Encourage and console them. Remind them of the honorable hopes and dreams that brought them to this doorstep.”
Medical Family Day ends with a ceremony welcoming the students to the field of medicine by presenting them with their first white coat. “The White Coat Ceremony is a rite of passage, which symbolizes the beginning of your transition into the noble and privileged profession of medicine,” said Dean Reece. “It is, however, so much more than a mere ritual. To whom this great honor and privilege is given, your service, compassion, and high ethical standards are expected in return.”
Edgar Petras, President of the Class of 2016, spoke about what the white coat means to a student. “Getting a white coat is a fantastic symbol of what you have achieved and also where you’re headed,” he said. “It’s the first step toward your life-long dream.” Edgar confessed his white coat also sometimes makes him uncomfortable, and not just physically. “When you put on that coat, people expect things from you. Professors expect you to know the answers, attendings expect you to have a plan for caring for your patients, even your family might be expecting some medical advice.”
Dean Reece had great expectations for the faculty members in the room. “I, like you, have had the distinct privilege of wearing a white coat for many years.” He said. “This has symbolized our commitment to the moral and ethical standards of the healing art. Today, I am charging you to rededicate yourself with a renewed vigor and freshness of spirit to the ideals that we hold true—honor, integrity and selflessness. Model them, each day, for these students who will look to you as the personification of these ideals. In doing so, you will have marked their paths well, leaving virtuous imprints for them to follow.”
Many students are looking to follow in the footsteps of Milford Foxwell, MD, Associate Dean of Admissions, who was honored to be chosen by the Gold Humanism Honor Society as the faculty speaker for the event. “This coat that is being given to you will inspire trust,” Dr. Foxwell said. “You’re going to have to uphold the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct.”
The White Coat ceremony, which started at the School of Medicine in 1997, formally presents first-year students with their white coats, long the symbol of physicians and scientists, after they have completed their first course in medical school – Structure and Development (aka Anatomy). The coats are put on by School of Medicine faculty, to welcome their junior colleagues to the profession of medicine.
Once they received their coats, students recited an oath acknowledging their acceptance of the obligations of the medical profession. They also added their signatures to the school's honor registry, a leather-bound book provided by the Medical Alumni Association that is signed by all our medical students in their first year, in which they pledge to maintain integrity throughout their years in medicine.