Since her graduation from college two years ago, my niece has been busy! While working as a medical scribe in a hospital emergency room and coaching rowing, she pursued a long-held goal and applied to medical school (an arduous process). In August she began her studies at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, New Jersey – across the Delaware River from Philadelphia.
Just as days turned gently fall-like on the East Coast in September, we spent a long weekend in Philadelphia to attend her “White Coat Ceremony” – a festive event, layered with symbols and tradition – celebrating these new medical students and marking an important transition.
Cooper is an innovative medical school, focused on a new generation of medical education and dedicated to improving health care delivery throughout the region. The medical school’s brand new building is a welcoming and light-filled space with facsimile examining rooms that look like your doctor’s office where students practice patient interviews (with actors standing in for patients) and classrooms designed for small “active learning groups” – the heart of teaching at Cooper.
It was exciting to be there with nervous and proud students surrounded by family and friends as they participated in this “ceremonial cloaking” – covering suits and ties and pretty dresses with the sober white of their profession-to-be. Very soon they’ll wear their white coats as they help staff a walk-in clinic and begin interactions with patients.
In part of his remarks at the ceremony, Dr. Paul Katz, the Dean of Cooper Medical School, said: “Medicine is a profession of symbols – the staff and the serpent, the black bag, the stethoscope, the Hippocratic Oath. The white coat identifies the medical student as a healer, as part of the vast and complex health care system in our country. While they have much to learn on their journeys to truly becoming healers in the true academic sense of the word, donning the white coat marks the first steps on that journey.”
It will be a journey with much to learn – exciting and hard – and so worthy. The niece can do it – she’s got grit!