Virtual White Coat Ceremony Held for the MD Program Class of 2024
August 11, 2020
The MD Program Class of 2024 gathered virtually on Friday, August 7, to officially begin their medical school journey with the White Coat Ceremony, a symbolic commitment to the values and duties of the medical profession.
In the nationally recognized ceremony, incoming medical students don their white coats, a symbol of clinical care and compassionate service, and recite the Physician's Pledge, the contemporary successor to the 2500-year old Hippocratic Oath.
By reciting its words in front of their academic community as well as family and friends, physicians affirm their commitment to providing high-quality, compassionate medical care to all people. The tradition helps medical students understand their responsibilities even before their coursework has begun.
The MD Program's almost 300 incoming students joined College of Medicine faculty and staff over Zoom due to social distancing and the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was broadcast live to allow students' families and friends to watch and share messages of support throughout the ceremony.
"The mysterious thing about this video chat format is that we're all in different physical locations, but we also share the same space," said keynote speaker Steven Rosenzweig, MD, director of the Office of Community Engagement and a professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine. "The Physician's Pledge is affirmed in community; we take it with one another."
The oath is the Declaration of Geneva's Physician's Pledge. "We are a profession only because we take this oath together," Dr. Rosenzweig said.
To create a feeling of togetherness for the virtual event, faculty, staff, current students and alumni welcomed the Class of 2024 to the College's community with supportive and welcoming messages online, ahead of the White Coat Ceremony.
Over Zoom, the new students were welcomed to the fold by Alumni Association Board President Claudia S. Plottel, MD, MCP '84, speaking on behalf of alumni.
"You are beginning your medical studies at an especially important time," Dr. Plottel said. "It is a time that reminds each and every one of us how crucial the profession of medicine is to patients, to families, communities, and to all humanity."
Dr. Rosenzweig likewise recognized the time of change in which the Class of 2024 begins their medical studies.
"A pandemic is raging, and with it a growing awareness of global interconnection and common humanity. It's also a moment of renewed striving against structural oppression in all of its forms," he said. "The Physician's Oath resonates powerfully with principals of human rights and social justice that are at the bedrock of our profession."
Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Dean and Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs Charles B. Cairns, MD, said, "We are committed to an anti-racism agenda and to addressing the impact of health inequities across our mission of education, training, research, community service and clinical care. We also want to support the education of every one of our students."
Dr. Rosenzweig emphasized that students' education would not only include crucial clinical skills, but also opportunities to hone one's empathy and compassion. He encouraged students not just to recite the Physician's Pledge, but to take to heart its messages of heart and humanity.
"What will it mean to carry this pledge into a future that is so uncertain, that holds so much challenge and so much promise?" he asked. "To answer this, you put on your white coat, affirm the Physician's Pledge, cross the threshold into the medical community – and we will find out together."