National Journal of Clinical Anatomy

: 2021  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 55--56

White coat ceremony: A felicitous ritual

NB Pushpa1, Kumar Satish Ravi2,  
1 Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy, JSS Medical College, JSSAHER, Mysore, Karnataka, India
2 Professor (Additional), Department of Anatomy, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

Correspondence Address:
Kumar Satish Ravi
Department of Anatomy, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand

How to cite this article:
Pushpa N B, Ravi KS. White coat ceremony: A felicitous ritual.Natl J Clin Anat 2021;10:55-56

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Pushpa N B, Ravi KS. White coat ceremony: A felicitous ritual. Natl J Clin Anat [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Jun 18 ];10:55-56
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The COVID-19 pandemic drove our lives into a brief hiatus and and the same effect would have been felt by thousands of new medical students looking forward to a fresh start. The white coat ceremony (WCC) is a gateway that channels this enthusiasm into a formal beginning for a budding doctor.[1],[2]

In one of the medical institution, during the orientation program, medical students were asked to narrate the stories or respond to the cue, about an experience or person that inspired them to consider this noble profession as a career. The result of this simple, yet efficacious study revealed that the medical students do indeed bring to the institute, their dream of the kind of doctors they wish to become in the future. By linking that vision with the medical institute rituals like WCC, forms a bridge between medical courses and students' earlier educational lives, thus explicitly providing orientation to early professional formation.

The WCC is a trending ritual for medical students. It was created in 1933 by Arnold P. Gold, a Pediatric Neurologist, at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. During the ceremony, the white coat is formally placed on each student's shoulders. Often, the Hippocratic Oath is also recited to sensitize them to ethics and values followed in the medical profession. The trend of WCC was effused in 1993 at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, with its epicenter beginning from the USA and soaring its wings across the world not only restricted to medical institutes but also in the dental, pharmacy, and nursing institutions as well.[3],[4]

Usually, the ceremony begins with a welcome speech given by the Dean/Principal of the medical institute. Then, one of the professors outlines what a medical student should know and what does a complete doctor's title entail. A holistic approach on how to tackle “freshers' euphoria” is also addressed with some words of wisdom to propel students toward success.

Thereafter, with a symbolic representation in the presence of friends and families, the students will be cloaked in their first white coat by one of the selected faculty members. In a “celebration atmosphere,” students take in unison and eagerly swear the professional oath of ethical behavior with youthful energy [Figure 1]. When the students take an oath, they promise to bring about the roles and the responsibilities to the patients who trust them, in the best possible way.[5] It also motivates them to commit to act wisely and graciously as medical students, and to interact with patients in a way that does not undermine people's confidence and trust in the healthcare providers.{Figure 1}

For a common person, “white coat” may not seem like a life-changing attire; however, for a medical student, wearing it for the first time at the beginning of their physician training amid their classmates, mentors, and family assures them that they are not alone in tedious yet so magnificent journey. The white coat is a constant reminder to progress and excel toward completion of their degree.

However, doctors and the color “White” were not always interlinked. In the previous era, doctors conventionally wore black to signify the solemnity of the profession. It was not until the turn of the century that medicine became associated more with healing than with death. As science entered the picture and doctors became more respected than feared, many trained physicians began wearing white coats both as a demonstration of their credentials and for practical matters: white's nonfading qualities made it the best candidate for washing at germ-killing temperatures and preventing contamination. Since that time, the white coat has evolved to become – alongside the stethoscope and the black doctor's bag – a symbol of authority, trust, honor, and respect.[6],[7]

The cultural significance of “whiteness” that conventionally indicates purity and goodness are immense and upholds a powerful place in the dictums of the world. The pureness of medicine became reflected in the white coat of doctors. Wearing white is a way of suggesting the need for cleanliness personified and for having a pure heart and mind to see goodness and purity in everything.[5]

Welcoming students in such a dignified manner affirms them their new status and highlights the importance of committing themselves to excellence, not only in the technical areas of medicine but also in its human and humanitarian aspects. Indeed, it is a very much appropriate occasion to teach them empathy and practice it on a daily basis.

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