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P&S Celebrates 10th White Coat Ceremony; Incoming Students Pledge Compassionate Practice of Medicine

By Adar Novak

Dr. Arnold Gold helps a student with his coat at a prior ceremony. Photo by Jonathan Smith

Columbia's College of Physicians & Surgeons (P&S) welcomes the Class of 2006 on Friday, August 23, at its 10th Arnold P. Gold Foundation White Coat Ceremony, an annual rite of passage for doctors-to-be to pledge a commitment to the compassionate practice of medicine. This event was initiated at P&S in 1993 and has since become tradition at more than 130 schools of medicine and osteopathy throughout the United States, at Israel's four medical schools, and in other countries.

Supported by The Arnold P. Gold Foundation, a public foundation dedicated to creating innovative medical educational programs that foster humanism in medicine, the White Coat Ceremony is an opportunity for first-year medical students to publicly declare their intention to practice medicine "in uprightness and honor" by reciting the Hippocratic oath before family, friends, and faculty. Though this recitation was previously reserved until students graduated from medical school, the promise to uphold its tenets at the beginning of medical school helps students start thinking and feeling like a doctor from day one, as each is individually cloaked in a white clinician's coat.

"The White Coat Ceremony has become an indelible experience for P&S students," said Gerald D. Fischbach, dean of the Faculty of Medicine and executive vice president for Health and Biomedical Sciences. "It builds a positive foundation for students and challenges them to provide compassionate care and seek excellence in science."

Arnold P. Gold, professor of clinical neurology and clinical pediatrics at P&S, adds that the White Coat Ceremony encourages a "psychological contract" for professionalism in medicine.

"This ceremony demonstrates the medical and educational communities' commitment to professionalism and caring in medicine," Gold said. "Students promise to practice medicine honorably and continue the tradition of 'doctoring' and mentoring, as they recite the Hippocratic Oath and are cloaked by faculty and administrators. This represents a gift of faith and confidence to a new generation of physicians embarking on their professional journey."

The internationally renowned Benjamin S. Carson, director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University, will return to Columbia to present the keynote address, as he did at the first White Coat Ceremony in 1993. The ceremony begins at 12:30 p.m. in the Alumni Auditorium of the Black Building at 650 West 168th Street.

Published: August 22, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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