WVU’s White Coat Ceremony, strategically positioned in the second year of training, is designed to help students reaffirm their reasons for choosing medicine as their lives’ work. The ceremony provides a formal way for them to express their commitment to becoming technically excellent and professionally compassionate with patients. It stresses the importance of the doctor-patient relationship and the relevance of the white coat as a “cloak of compassion.”
The White Coat Ceremony was developed by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation of New York, and was initiated for the entering class of the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University on August 20, 1993. The original concept was to clarify for students, prior to their entrance into the medical community, that a physician’s responsibility is twofold; to take care of patients and to care for patients. This ceremony has since been established at nearly all the nation’s medical schools, with various adaptations.
At WVU, our first ceremony, held on January 26, 1996, deferred from the original concept. It honored second-year students and marked the transition from the basic sciences to clinical sciences, from reading about illness and disease to diagnosing it; from learning about treatments to prescribing them.
However, with changes in medical education, that transition point is becoming less defined. Patient contact coming early on in training, meshing with the obvious importance and relevance of the basic sciences, broadens the concept of WVU’s ceremony and more clearly defines its purpose.
In 1999, upon retirement of Dean of Students, John W. Traubert, the ceremony was named in his honor.