20th Anniversary of the White Coat Ceremony
The ritual is believed to have originated twenty years ago, in 1989, at the acclaimed University of Chicagoâ€™s Pritzker School of Medicine. Its
purpose was to mark the transition between the initial science course curriculum and the beginning of their clinical and direct patient care training. It is
a formal ceremony in which medical studentâ€™s don - for the first time - the traditional white lab coat that physicians have worn for more than a
century. The primary elements in the White Coat Ceremony typically include: recognition of the students for completing pre-clinical studies, affirmation
of a commitment to medical ethics, actual â€œcloakingâ€• of the students in white lab coats, and recitation of the Hippocratic Oath. It is similar to a
medical school graduation, in that parents and friends are encouraged to attend, in order to witness and recognize this important milestone.
From this modest beginning in 1989, the ceremony has evolved exponentially. Now, in addition to an ever increasing percentage of medical schools,
the White Coat Ceremony is becoming a tradition at dental, podiatric, chiropractic, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy, and veterinary schools
throughout the United States - and the world. Of course, there are variations among the different types of schools consistent with their curriculum. In
some specialties, the studentâ€™s clinical work occurs earlier in their training than is typically the case for medical school students, and thus, the
timing of the White Coat Ceremony is altered. Most pharmacy students, for example, go through the ceremony at the end of their first year, while some
chiropractic schools conduct the ceremony at the start of the first year. Regardless of when the ceremony occurs, it has become an important event
symbolizing the induction of the student into their chosen healthcare career.
One aspect of the White Coat Ceremony - the white lab coat itself - has also evolved over the years. While many of the ubiquitous shapeless