COLUMBIA-White coats hung from a clothing rack on the stage in Jesse Auditorium, in front of an audience of family, friends and first-year medical students. Books were stacked on the other end of the stage, ready to be presented, while faculty and staff sat in between.
The class of 2011 held its White Coat Ceremony on Sunday. After days of orientation, first-year medical students received a white coat as a symbol of being welcomed into the profession of medicine.
It was a ceremony of prestige, pride and accomplishment. The atmosphere was that of a graduation ceremony, except this was an initiation.
Amanda Bail, 22, from Versailles, Mo., had her entire family attending, including grandparents, aunts and uncles. Her first choice for medical school was MU, and she was feeling all the expected emotions of excitement and happiness.
“It symbolizes the hard work of my entire educational career,” Bail said. “They have the best program in the state.”
Bail would be the first doctor in her family, and, after graduation, she plans on working with a rural family practice.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Michael L. LeFevre, told personal, heartfelt stories. But he managed to lighten up the mood with jokes, even quoting the TV show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
The last piece of advice he offered the incoming class was to remember that patients are human beings, not diseases.
“Mizzou has a lot of emphasis on patient-centered care,” said Jade Tamm, a second-year medical student.
When it was time for the students to be deemed student-doctors, they made their way to the stage as their names were called. A white coat was held up for them to slip into. Pictures were taken by a hired photographer and crowds of family members.
“I think it’s an honor for me to welcome these students to the profession,” LeFevre said. “They are entering a noble craft.”
The white coats were considerably shorter than the white coat of an M.D. The shorter length symbolized the student status, Tamm said. The students will receive longer coats when they graduate.
Students also received a thick book called “On Doctoring.” It is filled with stories, poems and essays by writers such as Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. It’s not a book they will use for classes, but rather one to further their “humanitarian growth,” LeFevre said.
Each student was also awarded two gold pins: one to symbolize the values and ethics of the medical society, and the other to symbolize MU.
As the ceremony came to a close, the entire auditorium rose to its feet as the class of 2011 recited a modified version of the Declaration of Geneva. It involved a pledge to the service of humanity, to the respect of one’s teachers and to the practice of the medical profession with dignity and conscience.
After the ceremony ended, the students lined up on the steps of Jesse Hall for their first picture as a class together. The next time they will be there with white coats will be at their graduation in four years.
But tomorrow is the first day of classes and their first step in the profession of medicine.