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THE HISTORY OF THE WHITE COAT CEREMONY

The first White Coat Ceremony was held at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in the City of New York in 1993, supported by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. The purpose of the ceremony is to clarify for students, prior to their entrance into the medical community that a physician’s primary responsibility is to take care of patients. In other words, doctors should care as well as cure. The white coat has served as the pre-eminent symbol of physicians for over 100 years. This is the ceremonial “cloaking” of a doctor-to-be as she or he embarks on a medical career. An inspiring address by an eminent physician sets the tone for the ceremony at which distinguished faculty and administrators from the medical schools cloak students with their first white coats. Students recite a student-written adaptation of the Hippocratic Oath appropriate for their status as medical students, pledging to lead lives of compassion, uprightness, and honor. The ceremony stresses the importance of the doctor-patient relationship and to foster a psychological contract in which each student accepts responsibility to be technically excellent, committed to the profession, and compassionate with patients.