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White Coat Ceremony Presents Students With Symbol of Future Profession

November 07, 2016

Medical students add their signatures to the school's honor registry

The University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) held its annual White Coat Ceremony November 4, 2016 at the Hilton in downtown Baltimore. First-year UM SOM medical students received their welcome to the field of medicine with the presentation of their first white coat.

The event also provides family members of first-year students with a glimpse of what medical school is really like.

"Today marks a major milestone in what will surely be a momentous and lifelong journey," said 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. "The White Coat Ceremony is a rite of passage, which symbolizes the beginning of your transition into the noble and privileged profession of medicine. It is, however, so much more than a mere ritual. For, to whom this great honor and privilege is given, your service, compassion, and high ethical standards are expected in return."

Watch 2016 White Coat Ceremony Videos:

Richa Kalsi, Secretary of the Class of 2017, spoke eloquently about what the white coat means to her. "The gleaming white color of your coat should remind you that you didn’t come here to scrape by, but that you came here in pursuit of excellence. That excellence is not for yourself, it’s for your patients – the hundreds or even thousands of human beings you will meet over the course of your career who will in a matter of seconds disclose to you their vulnerabilities, their fears, and their hopes."

Dean Reece also directed thoughts to the faculty about the responsibilities involved in wearing the white coat: “I, like you, have had the distinct privilege of wearing a white coat for many years. 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.”

Dr. Arnold P. Gold, a Columbia University medical school professor, established the white coat ceremony for entering medical students in 1993. The White Coat ceremony started at UM SOM in 1997. The ceremony 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 house leadership 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 UM SOM medical students in their first year, in which they pledge to maintain integrity through their years in medicine.

The white coat itself was first introduced in the 1880's by surgeons as a statement of their commitment to new understandings of sanitation and "antiseptic" techniques.

All physicians adopted it in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to emphasize the scientific nature of the physician's work and to distinguish them from medical charlatans of the era. By World War II, the physician's white coat had come to symbolize rigorous training, high achievement, and commitment to the principle that the patient always comes first.

Event Photos:

Group Shot - White Coat Ceremony 2016

White Coat Ceremony - Hand Shaking - 2016

White Coat Ceremony - Students Reciting - 2016


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