CINCINNATI—The University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine welcomed 171 first-year students into the medical field Friday morning with the college’s 19th annual White Coat Ceremony held at the Aronoff Center for Arts.
Each member of the class of 2018 was presented with a white coat to symbolize their entry into the medical profession. The UC Alumni Association provided the coats as a gift. They serve as a constant reminder of the patients the students will treat and the compassion, honesty and caring to which students should always aspire.
Dean Thomas Boat, MD, welcomed first-year students along with their parents, friends and other well-wishers and offered some statistics about the class, considered the strongest in the college’s history based on MCAT scores and prior academic performance.
"You represent a broad range of experiences and perspective and a high level of diversity that we enthusiastically embrace,” said Boat. "You come from many of the best undergraduate schools in the country. Your average cumulative GPA is 3.74 and your MCAT score is 33.2, both as far as I know the highest in the history of the College of Medicine and certainly well above average for medical schools around the country.
"Your class was selected, in part, based on your stellar academic record, but also based on demonstration of insight, outstanding communications skills and empathy and also on your record of service and your broad experiences,” said Boat.
Two-thirds of the class is from Ohio with the rest coming from 17 other states. Women make up 47 percent of the class while 13 percent of students are from underrepresented minorities in medicine.
Boat introduced UC President Santa Ono and keynote speaker Kenneth Davis, MD, professor in the UC Department of Surgery’s Division of Trauma and Critical Care Surgery.
Ono, a biomedical researcher, shared details of the College of Medicine’s history, which can be traced back to 1819, and founder Daniel Drake, MD. Drake established the Medical College of Ohio which eventually became the UC College of Medicine.
"Perhaps you didn’t know it, but the University of Cincinnati’s roots began with your college, the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine,” Ono told the incoming class.
"In some ways because the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine has been around for so long it’s sometimes easy to take for granted the existence of the College of Medicine given its long history and the fact it is such an integral part of the fabric of this city, state and the region and one of the premier academic health centers in the United States,” said Ono.
"The College you are entering, 195 years after its formation, believe it or not almost didn’t happen. Colorful figures, disagreements and rivalries almost prevented it from being established and there were times in the history of the College of Medicine it could have fallen apart. But eventually these were overcome and the college has grown and become one of the nation’s best,” said Ono.
Both Ono and Davis discussed the white coat and how it has been a symbol of the medical profession since the 1880s.
Before then doctors wore black suit coats to hospitals. But the use of a lab coat gained in popularity as doctors responded to rising criticism at the time over many practitioners who were charlatans. Davis cited scientists such as the British surgeon Joseph Lister, who is the pioneer of antiseptic surgery.
"This was a means of distinguishing themselves as scientists as opposed to quacks selling herbs and potions and other charlatans,” said Davis, noting the lab coat changed from beige to white to symbolize purity and goodness.
Davis said many have accepted the white coat, but critics remain.
"In Great Britain it is considered a source of infection, along with neckties and long sleeves,” said Davis. "Some perceive it as a social barrier between physicians and their patients and between physicians and other health care workers fostering the god-like image we are often accused of possessing.
"I would argue that those barriers are more a factor of the individual wearing the white coat rather than the coat itself,” said Davis.
There are times when the white coat could be a barrier in disciplines such as pediatrics or psychiatry because it impedes the doctor-patient relationship, said Davis. Despite those concerns, Davis, a trauma surgeon, has a compelling reason for wearing the white coat.
"I personally wear the coat whenever I am seeing patients because I feel I am asking a lot of patients and their families when I ask them to place their lives or the lives of their loved one in my hands.”
Davis said the white coat ceremony in its current form began at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1993 and was founded by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. Gold, a pediatric neurologist who practiced at Columbia and had completed his pediatric residency at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, was concerned about the core values of compassion, respect and empathy in the practice of medicine, which has become increasingly reliant on technology.
Davis said Gold started the foundation in 1988 to nurture and preserve the tradition of the carrying physician. The white coat ceremony is a rite of passage for students who will embark on a long, arduous journey to complete medical school, Davis explained.
"There will be times over the next four years when some of your will wonder what you’re doing here and if you will even make it to the end…Many have traveled this path before you and the overwhelming majority succeed,” said Davis. "As a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine you will be well prepared to pursue any aspect of medicine you desire.”