News at Medicine - September 2008 - White Coat Ceremony 2008

White Coat Ceremony 2008
September 9, 2008
The seventh annual White Coat Ceremony took place Sept. 5 in the main auditorium of the Faculty of Medicine. This ceremony has become a formal tradition of receiving new undergraduate students into the medical profession by presenting them with short white coats.

Dean James Rourke welcomed the audience of students, faculty, staff and friends. “You have worked so hard to get here with the support of your family and significant others,” he said to the class of 2012. “As medical students you will soon have the privilege of looking after patients. As members of this very privileged profession your activities will reflect on the Faculty of Medicine and the profession as a whole.”

Dr. Wanda Parsons, assistant dean of admissions, said she was impressed by the academic records and volunteer activities of the incoming class. She cautioned the new medical students that by virtue of being medical students they will be privileged to care for people at their most vulnerable.

Speaking on behalf of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador (formerly the Newfoundland Medical Board), deputy registrar Dr. Cathy Vardy explained the role of the college. She told students that their names have now been entered into the province’s medical register, permitting them to enter the supervised practice of medicine. “We look forward to your contributions.”

Dr. Elizabeth Callahan, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA), encouraged all students to join the NLMA and take advantage of services such as MD management that provides free professional and objective financial advice. “We welcome your input – don’t forget, you can make a difference.”

Dr. June Harris, assistant dean for Student Affairs, and Dr. Parsons presented the 64 new students with their white coats.

Dr. Monica Kidd, a first-year family medicine resident, had a few words of wisdom for the Class of 2012.

“My main job this evening is to encourage you. Regardless of your path to be get here, or the reasons you rattled off to the admissions committee and to the dozens of others who’ve asked ‘Why do you want to be a doctor,’ you are entering into an ancient trade, much revered and maligned throughout history. Just listen to the daily news: medicine evokes strong feelings in everyone because everyone is a patient, even doctors. Richard Selzer is a retired surgeon and writer. In his 1982 book Letters to a Young Doctor, he had this to say taking one’s place in an ancient lineage.

Within you is the gesture of the prehistoric surgeon who trephined his neighbour’s skull on the floor of a cave. Within you, the poultice of cool mud applied to a burn by an old African woman. The work of all doctors before you is in your blood. Yours will enter the veins of whosoever comes after you.

Medicine changes you; for better or for worse is for you and yours to decide. But as patients give us their bodies and their trust, they also give us their stories. Two weeks ago, I watched an eight year-old boy die on the operating table after the car his mother was driving was t-boned by a transport truck. Two weeks before that I pronounced my first death, then broke the news to the man’s four grown sons, all on the day I saw my own baby for the first time on ultrasound. A dying man told me about the girl he fell in love with at the age of 16. I took a history from an immigrant boy who watched his father get shot in the back during the civil war in Sudan. In Haiti, I diagnosed a man younger than me with a brain tumour, then sent him away with a bag of Tylenol to die, because there is no brain surgery in a place with no food. In South Africa, I resuscitated a newborn girl disposed of in an outdoor toilet and left by her mother – who could not afford an abortion – to die. These stories are etched on me like scars. You will have your own. Cherish the people who trust you with them.”

Following Dr. Kidd’s speech, Dr. William Pryse-Phillips concluded the formal part of the ceremony by leading the first-year students in a reading of the Oath of Geneva.

Chris Hamilton received his short white coat from Dr. June Harris. Dr.  Monica Kidd had some words of advice for the Class of 2012.

Christopher Mong, left, and Paige Moore received their short white coats from Drs. Wanda Parsons and June Harris.

At the end of the White Coat Ceremony, Dr. William Pryse-Phillips led the class in a recitation of the Oath of Geneva.