First-year medical students take a big step at White Coat ceremony

The white coat is a symbol of the oath students take as a doctor, Dean Laura Mosqueda tells Trojans at Keck School of Medicine of USC rite of passage

August 14, 2018 Sara Reeve

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The 186 first-year medical students from the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Class of 2022 walked out into warm sunshine, ready to engage in a tradition that would signify the beginning of their lives as medical professionals. At a ceremony held Aug. 10 on the Health Sciences Campus, these students received their white coats and words of wisdom from faculty leaders.

In her first white coat ceremony as dean of the Keck School, Laura Mosqueda reminded the students that their white coats hold meaning not only for patients, but for the students, themselves.

“The white coat you receive today is a symbol of the oath you will take as a doctor — less than four years from now, I will remind you — and it represents an enormous privilege, as well as the solemn responsibility that comes along with the ability and the call to provide healing and comfort to our fellow man,” said Mosqueda, who also is professor of family medicine and geriatrics and holder of the May S. and John H. Hooval Dean’s Chair in Medicine.

White Coat ceremony: trust between doctors and patients

Serving as the ceremony’s keynote speaker was Lawrence Opas, associate dean for graduate medical education and professor of clinical pediatrics, who spoke about the profound importance of a “culture of trust” between doctors and patients. To end his talk, he distilled his advice for the future doctors into two sentences.

“Remember to wash your hands, introduce yourself, clean your coat, don’t be in a rush even if you are in a rush, sit down, be a good listener, understand the patient’s perspective, be truthful, embrace diversity, be intolerant of disparities and always consider the safety of the patient,” he said. “Bring honor to that awesome privilege and opportunity to take a history, to perform a physical examination, to investigate disease, cure illness, maintain health and embrace that culture of trust.”

With nervous smiles and eager steps, the students were presented with their coats by Raquel Arias, associate dean of admissions; Donna Elliott, vice dean for medical education; and Karen Restifo, associate dean for student affairs. Cheering family and friends applauded and snapped photos as the students crossed the stage.

The ceremony concluded with the students rising to recite the Hippocratic Oath, promising to practice the art of medicine with honor and loyalty.

The Keck School of Medicine ceremony is one of several white coat ceremonies scheduled to take place on the Health Sciences and University Park campuses in the coming weeks. White coat ceremonies were first established in 1993 to promote both professionalism and humanism in new medical students as they begin their education.