University of Rochester

Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

A white coat moment

By Germaine Reinhardt

Med student receives her white coat
White coat recipient Roseanna Guzman is all smiles.

In a ceremony held to mark the beginning of their medical careers, the reactions ranged from tears to smiles to those of a more practical nature.

“It’s a little itchy,” remarked Esther Bauscher, who for the first time put on a physician’s white coat on August 19 during the School of Medicine and Dentistry’s Dr. Robert L. & Lillian H. Brent White Coat Ceremony.

She then continued in a more serious tone, “I understand the symbolism of the white coat, as I’ve worked in emergency medicine before. And I’m certainly glad my family was able to be here with me during this important moment.”

For the ceremony, held at the end of the school’s orientation week for the Class of 2010, students received their coats and a journal to capture reflections during their four years in medical school. Guest speakers included Barbara Asselin, associate professor of pediatrics, and fourth-year medical student Alexis Mottl. At the ceremony’s end, students recited a code of conduct that they had helped craft during orientation.

“The white coat is a visible symbol for all that is the essence of a physician,” says David Guzick, dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. “It is fitting that at the start of their medical education, we take time to remind students of the tremendous responsibility they will come to have over their years as physicians.”

The white coat ceremony has become an important tradition at the School of Medicine and Dentistry and for medical schools nationwide. Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first to conduct such a ceremony in 1993. Rochester was one of the few to quickly follow Columbia’s example and has held the ceremony for the past 12 years.

David Lambert, associate dean for undergraduate medical education, says the power behind the white coat is, in a word, “awesome.”

“While certainly a broad generalization, people will reveal their intimate thoughts and worries to you simply because you are wearing a white coat,” Lambert says. “So, it’s important that our students start thinking and behaving as though they are physicians, even though they are years off from becoming practicing physicians.”

The new name of the ceremony is a tribute to Robert Brent ’48, ’53M (MD), ’55M (PhD) and Lillian Brent ’50, who have been longtime benefactors to the school and most recently donated $1 million to its scholarship fund.

Reinhardt is associate director for Medical Center Public Relations and Communications.

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