Since August 7, when the Larner College of Medicine’s Class of 2021 started their medical education journey, the country has endured multiple, unthinkable tragedies – hurricanes, a mass shooting, wildfires – the kind that give rise to a greater respect and need for human connection. On Friday, October 13, 2017, these students participated in a rite of passage that emphasizes the importance of humanism in medicine – the White Coat Ceremony. The event took place in the University of Vermont’s Ira Allen Chapel.
(Watch a video clip of the ABC22/Fox44 news story
about the ceremony.)
During this ceremony, 119 first-year medical students received their first white doctors’ coats, symbols of their commitment to be respectful and compassionate towards not only patients, but all members of the healthcare team, and to cultivate attitudes and behaviors that are sensitive to others’ values and their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Among the class, 22 different languages are spoken and ages range from 21 to 44.
Learn more about some of the members of the Larner College of Medicine Class of 2021 here:
- Joy Benner says that having a mother and sister who are Deaf and witnessing their challenges navigating the healthcare system in a small Vermont town inspired her to pursue a career in medicine. “They are a large part of why I decided to attend UVM Larner College of Medicine,” she adds, and so is her brother Nate, a second-year medical student here who assisted with preparing the white coats on stage at the ceremony.
- After a 14-year career as a high school science teacher and administrator, former Sutton, Vt. resident Lauren Struck found that “my teaching skills weren’t being utilized in serving some of the real needs of the community where I lived” – the Northeast Kingdom – and decided that a career change was in order. Married with two kids, she says her family is adjusting well to their new location and routine and even helping mom with her studies.
- She’s from Atlanta, Ga., and he’s from Sweden, but both Candice and Seth Wolf developed an interest in medicine as middle schoolers – a dream they are realizing together as students in the Class of 2021 at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. A couple since their senior year of undergrad, the two pursued master’s degrees in biotechnology at Johns Hopkins University, got married and spent two years conducting pediatric medical research at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., before coming to Vermont.
- Juggling the many “hats” that doctors wear – such as clinician, scientist, healer, advocate, coach and guide – as well as the opportunity to work with people every day were the reasons why Shelburne, Vt. native Sam Epstein decided to pursue medicine. “I am interested in how we can better integrate the science of clinical medicine with our understanding of public health so that we can not only address a patient’s medical problems, but any underlying social determinants as well,” says Epstein, who graduated from Champlain Valley Union High School and American University in Washington, D.C.
Opening remarks at the ceremony were delivered by Christa Zehle, M.D., associate dean for students, Frederick C. Morin, M.D., dean of the Larner College of Medicine, and Claude Deschamps, M.D., president and CEO of the UVM Health Network Medical Group. Marvin Klikunas, M.D., associate professor of medicine and the 2017 UVM faculty recipient of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award, delivered the keynote presentation at the ceremony. The official Presentation of Coats portion of the event included William Jeffries, Ph.D., senior associate dean for medical education; Tania Bertsch, M.D., associate dean for clinical education; and Zehle.
A portion of the funding for the white coats is provided by the UVM Medical Alumni Association. The Arnold P. Gold Foundation provides the gift of Humanism in Medicine lapel pins to each medical student participating in the White Coat Ceremony. The UVM Office of Primary Care provides students with a keepsake copy of The Oath.
Background Information on the White Coat Ceremony:
(Source: Mark Hochberg, M.D., “The Doctor's White Coat--an Historical Perspective,” American Medical Association Journal of Ethic’s Virtual Mentor website, April 2007)
- Initiated on August 20, 1993 at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, this annual ceremony or a similar rite now takes place for first-year medical students at about 90 percent of schools of medicine and osteopathy in the United States, and is supported by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation
- According to the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the White Coat Ceremony helps establish a psychological contract for the practice of medicine.
- Physicians dressed in black until the late 19th century, due to the association of black attire as formal. Physicians adopted the white coat as a symbol of purity at the beginning of the 20th century.