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Families Celebrate as First Year Medical Students Receive Their White Coats

Friday, October 31, 2008

 Lindsay Dancy (from right), Niki Deshpande and Ashley Devonshire are all smiles after getting their new coats.

Medical school is a long and difficult road, but it is also extremely gratifying. This was one of the lessons the families of first-year students learned during Medical Family Day on October 30, 2008. Started four years ago as a lead-in to the White Coat Ceremony, this event gives family members a glimpse into what medical school is really like for their loved one. It is made possible thanks to the Medical Family Fund, which has raised more than $100,000 to help our medical students in a variety of ways. The fund has paid for research trips and conferences and even created a student lounge on campus where students can gather in comfort.

During the morning session, Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, gave an overview of the School of Medicine, its rich history and its success in patient care and research. Sheri Slezak, MD, an associate professor in the Department of Surgery, shared her perspective as both a teacher and a parent of a med school student (daughter Katie is in the class of 2012). David Mallott, MD, Associate Dean of Medical Education, and Donna Parker, MD, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, let the families know that help is available to their students whenever they need it, be it academic, physical or psychological.

Judy Kopinski, president of the Class of 2009, presented her view of medical school from a student perspective. "I've worked harder than I ever thought I would or could," she admitted. "I have been through highs and lows, and through both I've had the opportunity to define myself and the type of doctor I am working to become."

After a luncheon for the families came the event first-year students have long been waiting for – the White Coat Ceremony. This tradition, which started at the School of Medicine in 1997, involves the presentation of traditional white coats, long the symbol of physicians and scientists, to students. The coats are put on the students by School of Medicine faculty, to welcome their new colleagues to the profession of medicine. After being "coated," students recited an oath acknowledging their acceptance of the obligations of the medical profession. They also added their signatures to the school's honor book, a leather-bound volume signed by all med students in their first year and their final year, in which they pledge to maintain integrity throughout their years in medicine.

For Lindsay Dancy, getting her white coat was the culmination of all the hard work she put in, first in getting into medical school and then in completing the nine-week Structure & Development (a.k.a. Anatomy) course that marks the students' first educational hurdle. She had special plans for where she would wear her new coat out in public for the first time. The students' next educational block is Introduction to Clinical Medicine, where they are given their first chance to work with real live people rather than cadavers, so "I'm going to put it on and go see patients," she said with a smile, already sounding like a doctor.

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 Students anxiously gathered outside of the MSTF auditorium to await their white coats.

 Moments later, those same students were proudly wearing the symbol of their profession and feeling more like doctors than they ever had before.

 Judy Cooksey, MD, parent of Jessica Cooksey '08; Gina Perez, MD, and Joseph Martinez, MD, Assistant Deans for Student Affairs; and Judy Kopinski, President, Class of 2009, answered parent questions during a panel discussion.

 Faculty members wore their own white coats as a sign of solidarity with the newest members of their profession.

 The Class of 2012

 After seeing the first-years through Anatomy, professor Larry Anderson, PhD, found bestowing coats was a bit of a stretch.

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