White coats hold important meaning for students

Even though the White Coat Ceremony for medical students and physician assistant students at Baylor College of Medicine take place during different points in their medical training, the importance and responsibility of the white coat remains the same.

This July, students in the Physician Assistant Program at Baylor’s School of Allied Health Sciences received their white coats in a ceremony in Cullen Auditorium after completing their basic science training. In August, first-year students in the School of Medicine received their white coats at a ceremony held at the Bayou City Event Center.

“The white coat is a symbol of membership in the caring profession,” said Katherine Erdman, assistant director of the Physician Assistant Program at Baylor.

For physician assistant students, it’s a rite of passage from classroom training to clinical training.

According to the class president, Libby Butler, it was fitting for the ceremony to take place in Cullen Auditorium, where the students’ journey began a year before during orientation, and even before that while waiting in the auditorium for their interviews for the program.

Butler reminded students to be thankful for the support of the faculty and administration of the program, whom she referred to as “superheroes without capes.”

Dr. Brian C. Reed, associate professor of family and community medicine at Baylor, reminded the students that when they put their white coats on, they represent an entire profession. The white coat gives them instant respect, power and responsibility.

“Nothing is bigger than the love and compassion that you show a stranger who’s in trouble,” echoed Sarah-Ann Keyes, who graduated from the program in 2012 and is now an assistant professor in the program.

This August marked the 20th School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony at Baylor. At the ceremony, students also were reminded of the responsibility that the white coat holds in their profession.

“This is a solemn ceremony that celebrates the unique privilege and honor that comes with this profession,” said Dr. Jennifer Christner, dean of the School of Medicine at Baylor. “Physicians are part of the most intimate moments of a person’s life. We are there for the first breath, and we are there for the last breath.”

Dr. Alicia Monroe, provost and senior vice president of academic and faculty affairs at Baylor, also offered some words of wisdom.

“One of the most important reasons why we selected you is because we have a strong conviction that not only do you have the academic aptitude and the passion for become a healer, but we also believe that you can be entrusted with the responsibility of being a physician and that you will continue to hold dear this responsibility.”

In addition to the donning of the white coats, Dr. Emily Sedgwick, associate professor of breast imaging in the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, part of the NCI-designated Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, received the 2016 Ben and Margaret Love Foundation Bobby Alford Award for Academic Clinical Professionalism, an honor given annually to a Baylor physician who best exemplifies professionalism in the practice of medicine.

See the School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eT1vtbr_fAk