A gift that keeps giving – alumni recall their White Coat experiences and why they give

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 and Surgeons of Columbia University on Aug. 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 and care for patients. This ceremony has since been established at nearly all the nation’s medical schools with various adaptions.

West Virginia University’s first White Coat Ceremony, held in 1996 and sponsored by the Alumni Affairs Office, deviated from the original concept and established unique attributes. It honors second-year students and marks their transition from the basic sciences to clinical sciences, from reading about illness and disease to diagnosing and from learning about treatments to prescribing

“I remember it being a really great moment in medical school,” said Eric Seachrist, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Neurology. “Putting on the coat has so much meaning and symbolism behind it. It’s a rewarding experience and serves as a reminder of why you’re in medical school.”

For Katherine Seachrist, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, the White Coat Ceremony is a recognition of the dedication put in throughout medical school and what is to come.

“It’s a symbolic experience of taking that next step into clinical rotations and having the chance to personalize your experience in your journey toward becoming a physician,” said Katherine.

A celebrated tradition of the ceremony encourages alumni and faculty of the School of Medicine to sponsor a white coat for a medical student which includes a handwritten note or card with words of inspiration, encouragement and advice as the student enters clinical practice.

“The handwritten cards left in the coat pocket are a memorable experience and I was very appreciative of the advice,” said Eric.

As alumni and faculty of the School of Medicine, Katherine and Eric now sponsor white coats for students and say the experience feels just as rewarding as when they were students.

“It’s a nice way to remember those feelings and continue being connected to learners outside of just teaching them,” said Katherine. “Writing the notes helps to remember what it was like to be on that journey and is a great way to stay connected to the School of Medicine in a special way.”

To learn more about the School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony visit medicine.wvu.edu/md-student-services/white-coat-ceremony/. To learn more about the Office of Alumni Affairs and sponsoring a white coat visit medicine.wvu.edu/alumni/about/john-w-traubert-white-coat-ceremony/.