Friday, October 10, 2008

White Coat Ceremony

I walked in a student and walked out a “Student Doctor.” Bally’s Resort and Casino event center in Las Vegas was filled with family, friends, and healthcare-professionals-to-be. We literally walked into the beginning of our new profession.

Coat of Honor

When we matriculated, we knew the goal was to walk away a physician educated in the art of medicine. Some have said that by the end of four formative years in medical school, the white coat is donned four years too late. Rather than waiting until our two years of classroom work and two years of clinical studies are completed, the esteemed white coat was presented to us this last week as a manifestation of the profession we are entering.

A historical tour of medicine reveals that the white coat is reserved for the medical professional. With more experience, it is appropriate for the coat to become longer. Thus a medical student wears a coat that reaches to the waist whereas that of a seasoned physician will hang at the knees. Both are a symbol of the provider's dedication to the practice of medicine and the patients with whom he or she interacts.

Dignified Ceremony

Seated guests looked for ‘their’ student as they processed to the chairs at the front of the hall. The color guard presented the nation’s flag and I participated in the a cappella group that sang the national anthem before taking my seat among my colleagues. As TUNCOM is a Jewish institution, the governing Rabbi offered an invocation in the Hebrew tongue. The Dean of the school took a moment to express the significance of this event and then read each name one by one.

Students crossed the stage and handed their white coat to a member of the faculty who shook the coat before handing it to another professor who then assisted the student into their coat. This symbolism represented the formative classroom and clinical years respectively. Once the coats were received, the students stood to take The Osteopathic Oath:

I hereby affirm my loyalty to the profession I am about to enter.

I will be mindful always of my great responsibility to preserve the health and the life of my patients, to retain their confidence and respect both as a physician and a friend who will guard their secrets with scrupulous honor and fidelity, to perform faithfully my professional duties, to employ only those recognized methods of treatment consistent with good judgment and with my skill and ability, keeping in mind always nature’s laws and the body’s inherent capacity for recovery.

I will be ever vigilant in aiding in the general welfare of the community sustaining its laws and institutions, not engaging in those practices which will in any way bring shame or discredit upon myself or my profession. I will give no drugs for deadly purposes to any person though it be asked of me.

I will endeavor to work in accord with my colleagues in a spirit of progressive cooperation and never by word or by act cast imputations upon them or their rightful practices.

I will look with respect and esteem upon all those who have taught me my art. To my college I will be loyal and strive always for its best interests and for the interests of the students who will come after me. I will be ever alert to further the application of basic biological truths to the healing arts and to develop the principles of Osteopathic medicine which were first enunciated by Andrew Taylor Still.

In the presence of this gathering I bind myself to my oath.
Similar to the Hippocratic Oath given to allopathic counterparts, this oath embodies the characteristics of sound, dedicated physicians. It is a standard of care physicians attempt to deliver every day around the world. Although the formalities of the evening may be over, the journey is still in its infancy for the many medical students who wear the white coat and experience this honored rite of passage.

Yom Kippur

Once again Touro students find themselves at a time of holiday. Almost ten days ago Rosh Hashanah started and we are now in the midst of Yom Kippur, or the "day of atonement." It is considered to be the most important Jewish holiday, representing repentance and the atonement. An extended fast is performed during this time which is accompanied by considerable prayer. A normal day usually consists of three prayer services whereas this special day commonly has five.

Yom Kippur falls ten days after Rosh Hashanah when it is believed that God writes the fate of individuals into the book of life. The ten day period between offers time for repentance at the start of the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur is the day when the "verdict" of God is sealed. May your Yom Kippur be a day of renewal.

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