My Review of the White Coat Ceremony

AUC Class of 2013

Overall, I enjoyed and felt guided by the white coat ceremony. It was exuberant seeing the great support we had as AUC students. I saw the significant others, parents, and children of several of my classmates, and for the first time my colleagues were no longer just a familiar face in class but real people with real love and real connections supporting them. And of course, there is me, with the five people that came to support me. Seeing the myriad of faces of the faculty being introduced, I felt even more support during these next two years on the island. The room was packed with more people than I imagined.

Hearing all the different alma maters of the first-semester students made me feel glad to have come to AUC. Assuming we all graduate, I will be able to make connections with doctors all over the country and beyond. There are students from all different types of schools imaginable: some large state schools, other small liberal arts colleges, some American, others Canadian. I was surprised to hear students from impressive alma maters, such as Duke, Princeton, WashU (me and another classmate!), Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and even Harvard! We all come from different backgrounds and yet we come together now to achieve the same goal.

It was inspiring seeing the differences AUC makes to the SXM community. It was great also seeing students appreciate the hard dedication of their teachers. I enjoyed hearing the wit and wisdom of the fifth semester students, and the deserved respect and appreciation given to the faculty and honor students. Most of all I am grateful to hear the brave, touching stories of my future colleagues such as that of the fifth-semester Honor student speaker. Born and raised in Cuba, her parents sent her to the United States to seek a better education and better life. Coming with no knowledge of English or the American culture, she wanted to be a doctor, strived to do her best. After much struggle, she was given the opportunity to pursue her dream at AUC. Now, on the stage, she gives back to her parents by surprising them, for the first time, that she was not only one of the top students of the school, but having the honor to represent the honor society in giving a white coat ceremony speech.

Irene, Me, Mrs. Gung

In contrast, I felt the keynote speaker, Dr. G, should have given more background on the significance of the white coat and what it means to wear it. He said he did not want to repeat the speech from last year, since “everyone” in the audience has already heard it before, but in reality, most of the audience in that room, including pretty much all the first semester students, has not heard such a speech. In addition, the bulk of the audience was not in that room that night. Rather, they were online, on the live streaming video, as evidenced by the 1700 views it had within a day. My friends and family certainly did not know why exactly there is a white coat involved, and they wanted to hear. After his comment on how the white coat ceremony is going to be done away with, given that it may potentially spread germs, and is already “progressively” banned in Scotland, I asked myself, “then what is the point of this white coat ceremony? Why not just a ceremony?”

But fortunately, I wanted to answer this question and saw the white coat ceremony video from last semester. In contrast to this year, the May 2009 keynote speaker was excellent. She made students realize their place in the world simply through the symbolism of a white coat, a cloak of trust, compassion, and professionalism. Wearing it, a normal person suddenly transforms into doctor to which patients open up their most intimate issues. Wear the white coat with these values in mind. I wished our keynote speaker had given the same speech. For those of you interested in seeing it, here is the link. She could not have said it better.

Overall, the white coat ceremony gave me the message that to become a doctor, one cannot do it alone. It takes faculty, friends, parents, siblings, significant others, people of the community, classmates, and alumni to make that happen. Their help and support laid down the trails we now follow. Whatever we do here at AUC will affect, and hopefully improve, the reputation of our school, our classmates, and ourselves. We are all in this together. By donning a white coat, we have donned on a promise of everything we want to be. So wear the coat with dedication, and wear it like you mean it!

**Update 7/2010**

I found out that the keynote speaker for the May 2010 White Coat Ceremony was Dr. McCarty, whose ICM lecture I was quite impressed with as well.

Despite my dissatisfaction with his speech, I actually really like Dr. G as a professor.  He has had much experience as a practicing pathologist and is one of the better professors I’ve had so far.