For a medical student, college graduation is just one ceremony in a series of celebrations. One of the most memorable events for a doctor-hopeful is the white coat ceremony. At this ceremony, the brand-new, straight-from-the box medical school student takes the Hippocratic Oath and his or her white coat.
The Hippocratic Oath is as follows:
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow. I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism. I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug. I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery. I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God. I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick. I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure. I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm. If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.
Written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, and used in many medical schools today.
The Oath has been used for many centuries and in many places around the world. It originated in ancient Greece and was named after Hippocrates. You can read the original version of the Oath here if you are interested.
Byzantine manuscript of the Hippocratic Oath Photo Credit Here
Every incoming student at American University of the Caribbean participates in the white coat ceremony. New classes enter the school each trimester. Ben’s class has about 250 students. After a welcome address from the president of the student government association, the introduction of faculty and staff, a few award presentations, the introduction of the honor society, and keynote address, the students stood to take their pledge.
After the pledge, each student was called up to the stage, one by one, to receive his or her white coat and shake hands with the M.D. Chair and Assistant M.D. Chair.
You may notice from the photo that Ben’s coat is much shorter than Dr. McCarty’s coat. The student coat is, in fact, called the “short white coat.” Traditionally, medical students wear a short coat until they earn the title of Doctor. During medical school, Ben will wear his coat daily during lab period, when learning how to interact in a clinical setting, and when doing medical service in the community with the school.
After the ceremony, we were all shuttled to a classy catered dinner at Puerto Cupecoy, a shopping/dining area at the edge of Simpson Bay Lagoon.
I’m so proud of Ben! This is a big step. The next milestone is far down the road, and it’s time to work hard and study.