A Sacred Privilege: Caring for Patients

in Featured
August 8th, 2012

Members of the School of Medicine Class of 2016 sport both new white coats and big smiles after taking the Hippocratic Oath at the school’s White Coat Ceremony. BU Today photo by Chitose Suzuki

Members of the School of Medicine Class of 2016 sport both new white coats and big smiles after taking the Hippocratic Oath at the school’s White Coat Ceremony. BU Today photo by Chitose Suzuki

In two lines they marched, the 164th entering class of BUSM, greeted by the smiles and clicking cameras of family and friends. With a white coat draped over their arm, they entered the tent raised for the White Coat Ceremony held Monday, August 6. The white coats signify the students’ entry into the profession of medicine.

“The White Coat ceremony marks a major life transition, the beginning of your formal medical education,” said Dean Karen Antman. “When you put on your white coat for the first time today, the message is not that you are expected to become a professional, but that, as of today, you are now already a part of the profession. When you see your first patients in the coming weeks, you represent the profession.”

The 181 members of the entering Class of 2012 were chosen from a pool of 11,780 candidates. They represent 80 undergraduate institutions. Forty-four percent are women. Thirty-five percent hold a graduate degree at the Master’s level or above, and some have more than one advanced degree.

“All of you have met academic and personal challenges; all of you have had successes and failures; all of you have sacrificed much and accomplished a great deal to reach this moment,” noted Robert Witzburg, MD ’77, associate dean for admissions, as he presented the class for matriculation. “As you move into the next phase of your journey, your entry into the sacred trust that is the profession of medicine, each of you will struggle. What will sustain you in these difficult moments will be your own skill and talent, your own resilience and strength of character, the support of your classmates, the love of your family and friends, and the commitment of your teachers and mentors.”

For the first time at a BUSM White Coat Ceremony, the class was grouped by their Academy of Advisors. BUSM medical students are assigned an academy to which they will belong throughout their medical education. Each of the six academies provide students mentoring and career development and offer ongoing guidance and support from experienced faculty members, educators, and role models of professionalism to the students.

Douglas Hughes, MD, associate dean for academic affairs, called the students to podium, while faculty and deans helped each one don their white coat to begin their journey where upon the newest members of the BUSM community recited the Hippocratic Oath led by Samantha Kaplan, MD, assistant dean for diversity and multicultural affairs.

As the guest speaker, Kenneth Grundfast, MD, assist dean for student affairs and chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, addressed the dramatic change about to take place in their lives as they transition from student to physician. “By the time you finish medical school, you will be ready to accept the weighty responsibility that comes when people look to you to help alleviate their suffering, to cure them of cancer, to help restore their mental health, to help them give birth to their children and to be the doctor for their children. It is a sacred privilege to be given the opportunity to take care of patients. I loved it as a medical student and just as much today.”

View pictures from the ceremony on facebook.