The power of the white coat

By   |  July 12, 2008

Attn: people who want to grow up to be physicians, people who like touching anecdotes, and anyone who wants to read a new post!

Most, if not, all American medical schools have this event at the beginning of your schooling called the white coat ceremony. There the newly minted medical students and their families get to hear about the importance of being a compassionate doctor, and at the end, a distinguished faculty member helps each student put on their new short white coat on for the first time. From afar, it’s a totally cheesy event, but it really is quite touching. Of course, after the white coat ceremony, the first year largely consists of one’s nose in a book (or computer), and it’s easy to forget about all the good we all planned to do.

As part of my summer program outside of my institution, I got to shadow at a medical unit of a general hospital, and for the first time, I actually contributed to the assessment and care of some patients on my own. Unlike my past clinical experiences in med school, these were real, not standardized (fake), patients, and I was basically on my own to perform these exams. Even though what I did was not invasive or anything, it is always important to remember that sometimes the best plans of action are simple and not technological at all.

Having finished my first year of medical school, I still feel like I barely know anything pertinent to medical practice, but on several occasions as I walked through that hospital in my short white coat, people would come up to me asking me about what their medical documents said. I tried to point them in the right direction even though that was my first time in that hospital, but it really was amazing to see how my role changed from random twentysomething to helpful healthcare professional with the donning of the white coat.

It is easy to get discouraged by all the book studying you have to do to become a physician or any other profession for that matter, but it is so heartwarming to be doing something rewarding that you love. Even though I know there are many frustrations as a medical student and even more as a full-fledged physician, knowing that I will get to improve the lives of my patients by being a resource and a support for them makes all the hassle worth it. Passion makes life worth living, and I just wish everyone could feel that for something to do good in this world.

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5 Comments on “The power of the white coat”  (RSS)

  1. I don’t drop a comment, however I looked at a great deal of responses on this blog name. I do have some questions for you if it’s okay. Could it be just me or does it seem like a few of the responses look like they are left by brain dead individuals? :-P And, if you are posting at other places, I would like to keep up with you. Could you list of the complete urls of all your public sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  2. OMG, I loved your article, Im a med student myself and yes sometimes I feel that it doesnt matter how much I study I never get to know everything, still when I get to help someone even if its just a little its really really cool.:)

  3. Paying for medical school is a pretty large financial investment, and the typical medical student has more than a hundred thousand dollars in debt once they graduate. Even after becoming an MD, you have to go through residency for post-graduate training where you don’t make that much money either but spend a lot of time further learning about medicine. A lot of people initially think of working in primary care, but its lower ratio of salary to effort compared to the infamous ROAD specialties (radiology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology, dermatology) makes that dream less desirable in some people’s heads. It’s definitely an unfortunate situation with room for improvement.

  4. Well done ponderingdoc. I only hope you can retain that optimism and passion. From what I have seen med students go from discussing how many people they are going to help to how much money they are going to make. Then again… I guess that comes with the territory of the profession. I attribute it to the fact that most friends that a doc has, are already financially established by the time they make their first dollar. What do you think?

  5. I like your title. And it is an amazing thing that such respect and trust is given to doctors or those on their way in the US… on some recent most trusted professions surveys, doctors and nurses still rank at the very top! Impressive. Though socialized health care might change that for the worse imo…

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