The 2021–22 academic year is off to a great start. Last week many of us had the pleasure of meeting the members of the incoming first-year class, the BSOM class of 2025. This past Sunday, in a lovely ceremony at the Dayton Masonic Center, their journey officially began as, one by one, they were cloaked in their white coats and signed an oath of professionalism.
Many may not realize that the white coat ceremony is a relatively recent invention. Back in 1993, a professor of neurology at Columbia University in New York, Dr. Arnold Gold, noted that the practice of having students take the Hippocratic oath at graduation was four years too late, since increasingly, clinical exposure started early in the first year. He started the Gold Foundation and promoted the white coat ceremony to emphasize humanism in medicine and mark the beginning of the medical students’ journey of professional formation. In just a handful of years, most medical schools adopted the tradition, including BSOM. As we greeted the class of 2025, I was impressed by this resolute group. Although they came from as far away as California, 85 percent hailed from Ohio, and many have roots in the Miami Valley. Undaunted by the pandemic and, in many cases, inspired by it, they applied to medical school, did their interviews virtually, and arrived at a school that most had never officially visited.
I’ve always felt that the white coat ceremony is the happiest day of the year in a medical school. Unlike commencement, which is tinged with a little sadness as we bid a class goodbye, the white coat ceremony is filled with joy and anticipation. During my remarks, I reminded the students of the power of compassion by sharing an excerpt from a note I received from the mother of one of my patients who sadly lost his battle with AIDS in 1998. As my patient became more ill and the therapeutic options were exhausted, my presence as his physician still provided comfort, illustrating the power of the white coat. Dr. David Sackett said, “The most powerful therapeutic tool you’ll ever have is your own personality.” Paraphrasing this, I encouraged our students to expand their hearts, as well as their minds, during their medical school journey.
We are so proud of our newest class of students and are honored to walk alongside them as they begin their journey with us.
Valerie D. Weber, M.D., M.S.
Dean, Boonshoft School of Medicine