White Coat Ceremony; Med School Just Got Real

August 22, 2013
Emily Hause

MCAT-WhiteCoatHello future doctors! Last week I had the opportunity to participate in one of the fun traditions which marks the official beginning of medical school- getting my white coat and stethoscope. You may ask yourself why there is a ceremony for getting a white coat and indeed it seems like something that should mark the end of a medical school journey, not the beginning. So, why is the White Coat Ceremony traditionally performed at the beginning of medical school?

The answer, I believe, is multifaceted and was given many times during the speeches throughout orientation and in the ceremony itself. If you’re reading this blog, you may not have sat through a White Coat Ceremony before, so I’ll fill you in on some of the take-home messages.

1. It’s a time to acknowledge the accomplishments that we have made so far in getting to this point. At my ceremony, they cited the statistic that out of over 6,600 applicants, we 160 matriculants were sitting in the chairs about to begin our medical school education. Statistically it was very unlikely that any of us would have gotten there by anything less than perseverance and tons of hard work. As a part of acknowledging our accomplishments, the students were encouraged to thank our families who supported us throughout our journey and who were present to watch our transition into our new career path. Lots of parents cried.

2. To mark a new level of professionalism and illustrate the new commitment we made to medicine. One of the major differences between entering undergrad and entering medical school is the focus on professionalism. What that means is that being a future doctor has certain privileges, but also responsibilities. No more messing around in class, showing up to clinic in sweatpants or posting stupid things on facebook. The white coat is symbolic of the shift towards professionalism that we all made.

3. Obviously the real reason is the opportunity for sweet photo ops. Immediately following the ceremony, my family, roommates, classmates and I engaged in enough photo-taking and uploading to blow up my facebook news feed for weeks. Everyone wants a picture of them and everyone around in their shiny, new white coats looking very official. It’s proof to the universe that you are, in fact, in medical school.

Even though it occurred at the beginning of our medical education, the ceremony did have somewhat of a graduation feel. I would like to point out, however, that my colleagues and I are all quick to acknowledge that when it comes to medicine, we still have no idea what we’re doing. I’d like to think that humility that will serve us well further down the road.

Happy studying!

Emily Hause Emily has been a teacher for Kaplan for over eight years; she's taught MCAT, ACT, SAT, SAT2 and tutored pretty much every subject under the sun in both the classroom and live online (aka Classroom Anywhere) settings. She's also worked for Kaplan in content development and teacher mentorship roles. Emily is currently a fourth-year medical student at the University of Colorado and is hoping to go into Pediatrics. She's involved in many campus opportunities such as being a Prospective Student Representative, admissions committee member, CU-UNITE member, and co-president of the Education and Teaching Interest Group. Prior to medical school, Emily got a BA in Biochemistry and Spanish from Lawrence University and a Masters in Public Health- Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota. In her free time, Emily enjoys dancing, baking, playing tennis and exploring her new Colorado home.

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