The White Coat Ceremony marks your entry into medical school. With an alphabet soup of tests and applications behind you -- SATs, MCATs, AMCAS -- you've finally accomplished your goal of entering medical school. Though a long road still stretches before you to reach that MD, the White Coat Ceremony serves as a nod to your achievements thus far and the potential you show in becoming a full-fledged physician.
Typically occurring in August or September, these ceremonies have you literally don the cloak of your future profession — the lab coat.
A relatively new ritual, the White Coat Ceremony usually involves your entering medical school class reading the Hippocratic Oath together in a formal "robing" event. Your friends and family are invited to witness this event. These ceremonies are also beginning to take place at health-related schools and other professions as well. It is believed to have begun in 1993 at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons.
White Coat Ceremonies have been established at the start of your medical school years in order to heighten students' sense of responsibility from Day One. The ceremony is intended to impress upon you and your peers the importance of compassion in medicine, and of the doctor-patient relationship. The Arnold P. Gold Foundation, a public foundation dedicated to fostering humanism in medicine, has encouraged the growth of White Coat Ceremonies. The foundation now furnishes each White Coat participant with a pin that symbolizes a shared commitment to providing compassionate and competent patient care.
While some might assume medical uniforms basically consist of the handiest pair of scrubs to throw on, the lab coat is an icon for the trusted physician -- as recognizable as the stethoscope as a symbol of healthcare.
In 1994, the Gold Foundation sponsored three White Coat Ceremonies. The following year, four more medical schools participated in White Coat Ceremonies sponsored by the Gold Foundation. Today more than 100 medical schools around the United States host their own White Coat Ceremony for incoming medical students.
So why white lab coats?
Find out more about white lab coats and why physicians wear them.