On Saturday, January 9, a group of 123 third-year medical students celebrated a milestone in their journey to become physicians with the Ochsner Clinical School’s sixth annual White Coat Ceremony. The ceremony cloaked the doctors-in-training with their white coats for the first time.
Dr. Chantel Taylor, a 2015 graduate of Ochsner Clinical School, recalls the sense of accomplishment she felt at her own White Coat Ceremony, “It represented what I had been working so hard to achieve my whole life.” Taylor was also very aware of what the coat would mean to the people for which she provided care. “To them it was a symbol of hope and instilled in them a confidence and trust in my abilities that I knew I would have to work hard to deserve.”
Although traditionally celebrated in the first year of Medical School, the White Coat Ceremony for the Ochsner Clinical School students is commenced in the beginning of year three as they embark on the clinical phase of their medical school education. The Ochsner Clinical School is a partnership with the University of Queensland in Australia where US students spend their first two years of study on the Brisbane campus, followed by the year three and four clinical education in the Ochsner Health System hospitals and clinics.
The White Coat Ceremony dates to 1989 when Dr. Arnold P. Gold, a teacher and pediatric neurologist for more than 40 years at Columbia University, came to the realization that handing out white coats and reciting the Hippocratic Oath after four years of medical school was really too late. Gold felt that students needed well-defined guidelines regarding the expectations and responsibilities appropriate for the medical profession prior to their first day of education and training. This belief inspired the creation of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation for the advocacy and sponsorship of what has become known as the White Coat Ceremony.
Since 2009, Ochsner Clinical School has been on a steady growth track — expanding from 9 to an estimated 100 graduates in 2016. Students enrolled in the program come from prestigious undergraduate and graduate schools from all over the country.
As an indication of its success, the program currently boasts a 90% Match rate in the National Resident Matching program — with the majority of students securing a place at their first or second choices for residency program. Also of note, 48% of the students choose Primary Care fields, an area of great need in today’s healthcare system.
“The University of Queensland Medical School and Ochsner Clinical School are proud to carry on this tradition and share in this momentous occasion with our students in their journey to becoming a doctor,” said Dr. William Pinsky, Executive Vice-President and Chief Academic Officer for Ochsner Health System. “Many patients now view the white coat as a ‘cloak of compassion’ – an honor and a symbol of the caring and hope they expect to receive from their physicians.”
Taylor echoed those sentiments in her advice to the students who recently participated in the White Coat Ceremony, “Donning the coat commands respect from people and it is vital to conduct yourself appropriately when wearing it. So, I suggest always wearing it proudly and remembering all the hardships and achievements that were involved in earning it.”