Reflections from our MS1s: The White Coat Ceremony Experience

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On August 14, after completing a two-week introductory course entitled Patient, Doctor, and Society (PDS), the first year medical students participated in their White Coat Ceremony. This event celebrates the MS-1s by presenting them with the white coat they will wear during their clinical work throughout medical school. It also involves students taking an oath and officially being welcomed into the health profession by generations of physicians before them.

For many, there was a palpable excitement surrounding the ceremony that day, as it was the first moment in which they realized they really were going to become doctors.

“White Coat weekend was the glowing point that showed us that we really are in medical school… this isn’t a dream!” First year MSTP student Andrew Schroeder said. “It was an unforgettable experience that marked our true entrance into the medical career.”

For others, the ceremony involved a mixture of both excitement and nerves.

“I was elated to put on the white coat because it felt like a symbol of everything I had dreamed of and worked hard to achieve over the past few years,” first year MSTP student Emily Hayward said. “Still, I was incredibly nervous. To me, the coat carries so many values – empathy, compassion, knowledge, and more. I felt an incredible, exciting amount of pressure to embody those characteristics as I begin my training.”

Beyond the personal excitement of wearing the white coat, many MSTP students felt that the ceremony was a particularly excellent chance to see family. Although the PDS course began in August, the MSTP students moved to Birmingham in May to begin their first summer laboratory rotation.

“Most of the other medical students had only been away for two weeks, but the MSTP students had been away for two months,” Schroeder explained. “White Coat was a chance for us to see our loved ones. After a time of many changes and amazing experiences, a visit from family was certainly welcome.”

Unfortunately, due to the recent storms in Baton Rouge and other areas of the country, some family members could not make the trip. First year MSTP student Shreya Kashyap was hoping her father would be able to watch her receive her white coat, but the weather prevented his visit. Fortunately, however, Kashyap explained that the support she felt from her new MSTP family made a huge difference to her.

“It’s amazing how much of a community the MSTP really is,” Kashyap said. “I was probably the only one without any guests. But whether it was Corey’s encouraging words, or Emily’s cheering when my name was called, or the fact that Ryan was upset that I didn’t tell him that my father couldn’t make it so that he could come watch me…. I did not feel alone.”

For Kashyap, her unique white coat ceremony experience really reinforced what she loved most about UAB as an applicant just a few months prior.

“This place is great,” Kashyap said. “The people here make it what it is. The ceremony reinforced the feeling of family and of togetherness that drew me to UAB in the first place.”

Many MSTP students agreed with Kashyap, echoing the ceremony’s ability to capture the essence of what they believe makes UAB special.

“White Coat was surreal and just made me feel so grateful,” Hayward said. “The speaker embodied the values to which I aspire, and the family-type atmosphere is exactly what I always dreamed of being surrounded by. I can’t wait to spend the next few years learning and growing with such an incredible group of people.”

With the unforgettable experience of the White Coat Ceremony under their belts, the first year MSTP students plan to remember the true meaning of the coat as they move forward.

“White Coat was beautifully scheduled, planned, and executed,” Kashyap said. “It helped me realize that this ceremony, this initiation so to speak, also has to happen within myself. It is important to wear this coat with humility and grace. I learned that getting the coat is one thing – wearing it is another.”

 

 

-Emily Hayward and Paige Souder

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