Class of 2022 Celebrates White Coat Ceremony and Humanism in Medicine

October 8, 2018 by Jennifer Nachbur

The UVM Larner College of Medicine's Class of 2022 received their first doctors' white coats on Friday, October 5 at the University of Vermont's Ira Allen Chapel.

UVM Larner College of Medicine Dean Rick Page speaks to the medical student Class of 2022 and their guests at the annual White Coat Ceremony

Amid cheers, high-fives and applause, the Larner College of Medicine’s Class of 2022 engaged in a rite of passage that not only officially marked their future career path, but more importantly, emphasized the importance of humanism in medicine: the White Coat Ceremony. At the event, which took place at the University of Vermont’s Ira Allen Chapel, 119 first-year medical students received their first white doctors’ coats, symbols of their commitment to professionalism, and respect and compassion for patients, as well as all members of their future healthcare teams. When they graduate from medical school, they’ll trade in these short white coats for longer white coats as recipients of a doctor of medicine degree.

Sharing in this rite of passage was Richard Page, M.D., who began his tenure as the College’s 18th dean on Monday, October 1, 2018. In his first, official remarks as Dean of the College, he said “You'll find that when you wear a white coat, you feel different . . . people respect doctors . . . and they trust us with their stories and their secrets . . . they allow us to share their most private and personal moments . . .  what the white coat promises in a single word: professionalism.” He also added that “I’m proud to say that I have joined you, as this is the first day for me wearing a Larner College of Medicine white coat.”   

Other speakers at the ceremony included Associate Dean for Students Christa Zehle, M.D.’99, Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education William Jeffries, Ph.D., who provided a brief history of the Ceremony, and UVM Medical Center Chief Executive Officer John Brumsted, M.D., who welcomed the students into the health care system on behalf of the Medical Center and the UVM Health Network.

UVM Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences and 2018 Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Faculty Award recipient Anne Dougherty, M.D.’09, delivered the keynote address. She recounted an experience she had during medical school, working with a young patient named Gladyness in Kasese, Uganda, who had epilepsy and had suffered severe burns. The experience, she explained, made her realize her role as a physician, and she shared this lesson with the Class of 2022 students: “And though, it is not your job to save the world, I implore you to witness, advocate, improve and exchange – and you might just change the world a little bit”

Students were announced individually by Jeffries and welcomed onto the stage to be cloaked in their white coats by Zehle and Associate Dean for Clinical Education Tania Bertsch, M.D. A reception took place immediately following the ceremony at the UVM Dudley H. Davis Center Grand Maple Ballroom.

Background Information on the White Coat Ceremony

  • 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.

(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)

A video of the event can be viewed here.