What My White Coat Means to Me

A doctor’s white coat is more than a uniform. It’s a deep tradition, a symbol of the profession that dates back more than a century, originating in scientific laboratories as physicians became identified with their background in science as well as medicine.

In physician James Feinstein’s book Short White Coat, he explains why a medical student’s white coat is shorter than the full-length coat most doctors wear: “The coat is barely long and functional enough to carry all the educational books and tools of a medical student, but plenty short and awkward enough to remind any onlooker of the partially hatched novice contained within.”

On August 2, the 160 students comprising the BU School of Medicine Class of 2023 participated in the annual symbolic ceremony of being cloaked in a white coat and reciting the Hippocratic Oath to mark the beginning of their medical career. This year’s class hails from 28 states and 19 countries. The entering students speak 25 languages and 14 percent of them are from groups underrepresented in medicine.

We asked six of these first-year students to share with us their journey to medical school, the challenges they overcame, and the people who inspired them.

Danielle Lafond (MED’23) 

Why I want to be a doctor 

I think that people who discover they may be capable of doing difficult, important things should try to do them. I didn’t grow up believing that I was that kind of person. But after building a career off of nothing but my lived experiences and going back to school in my late 20s, I looked back at a long road of choosing challenging experiences over easier ones and coming out better on the other side, and saw that I was capable. When I chose to pursue medical school, it wasn’t because I wanted the coat or wanted to cut people open. Being a doctor wasn’t part of my identity yet. But I knew that I had a compulsion to help, a philosophy of doing my best to not make the world worse, a love of digging into scientific problems and figuring things out, and a belief that everyone could do with a little help and understanding. I would have taken these things with me wherever I ended up. But medicine is the best fit and the most compelling and useful work I can do. Medicine is science in the context of humanity—the kind of work that requires, always, the highest application of knowledge as well as compassion and respect for people who need to be helped or heard or healed, or all three, no matter where they come from. It will be difficult, but it is important and necessary. I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than that.

Danielle Lafond (MED’23) and her husband, Justin Bruns, following the 2019 MED White Coat Ceremony. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

The person(s) who inspired me to go to medical school

Nobody in my family is a doctor. I didn’t even meet a doctor who wasn’t my doctor until my late 20s. I spent a lot of time around patients, though, because everyone is a patient. The first person who inspired me to think about becoming a doctor was my grandmother, Joyce, who suffered from a disease that at one point resulted in the loss of ability to walk. She was always curious about her condition and passed that curiosity on to me. My sister, who has a rare autoimmune disorder, is another inspiration. Watching her struggle to obtain a definitive diagnosis while being ravaged by strange and varied symptoms was eye-opening. It inspired me to think about the interconnectivity of body systems and the power of advocating for oneself. I need to mention Dr. Jessica Inwood, the first MD I worked with as a medical scribe. She appreciated my professional ability as well as my candor and sense of humor. When she told me these traits would make me a better physician, not hinder my ability to become one, I trusted her. It was inspiring to have such a phenomenal physician see this as a good fit for me.

My journey to medical school

I’m a nontraditional student, which in my case means I’m 34 and just starting medical school. In middle school I was told I was gifted and put into the gifted programs, and the work came easily. I learned that that’s what success felt like—getting As without even trying. Being smart meant innate talent. In high school, when the work got harder and my grades started slipping, I was convinced it was because I just wasn’t smart enough for certain subjects. This was compounded by messages from others that agreed with this assessment. I heard things like, “You should just stick to writing, you’re not really good at math,” and “Of course you’re failing chemistry—that kind of thing has always been hard for you.” I took these as fixed aspects of my intellectual ability, like genetic traits.

On my first college attempt in 2003, I stuck to what I was good at and declared a communications major with a journalism concentration. However, after a semester it became apparent that it wasn’t financially viable for me to stay at that school, and I moved back to my home state of Rhode Island without a plan. I enrolled at Rhode Island College, but was unable to support myself while attending school and decided to enter the workforce. I worked at a variety of temp jobs until I landed a position at a fair trade coffee, chocolate, and tea importer. I became a quality control technician (industry-speak for coffee, chocolate, and tea taster) and a trusted member of the team. Over seven years there, I developed a real and powerful confidence in my ability to succeed when challenged by work I had never done before. My time at Equal Exchange convinced me I could succeed in school if I went back. When I  returned to college in 2012, I deliberately chose classes I’d always believed were above my ability, including science classes. In my first chemistry class, my professor said something that nobody had ever told me before: hard work beats talent every time. It was a lesson I had learned myself over the last nine years, and someone was finally saying that it was OK that I wasn’t immediately good at something. I declared biology as my major, worked hard, got As, graduated cum laude, and still had no idea that I was going to be a doctor. I didn’t feel like my premed friends felt—like you could just choose to be a doctor and then go do it. So I started how I always had: I got a job. I became a medical scribe and worked in multiple specialties with many physicians. I found that I felt comfortable, excited, and eager to help while in the clinics. The physicians I worked with encouraged me to apply to medical school based on what they saw in my work and personality. After a year in that position, I became a research assistant in a lab at Brown University and applied to medical school while conducting research on ALS via a fruit fly model system.

What the white coat means to me

While applying to medical schools, I spent much of my time thinking and talking about identity. So much of the struggle I had with deciding to pursue this path came down to issues surrounding identity: who was I allowed to be? Who was I capable of being? Did I think of myself as a physician? I have been careful not to shoulder the responsibility of an identity I wasn’t sure I’d be able to achieve. Some people drive themselves to achieve by looking at the end goal. But the goal is only one outcome, and we can’t hang our whole identity on whether or not we get that One Thing. It’s much more important to make sure you’re going about things in a way that is true to you. That’s what I did to get here, and I think the messy story is as important as the story of never deviating from a traditional path. The White Coat Ceremony represents a safe moment to shift my thinking—it feels like the moment that I can commit fully to taking on a new identity. We go from here to doctor. There are no more off-ramps. I don’t know who Dr. Lafond is, but it’s time to start finding out.

Lafond donning her white coat. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

What I hope to accomplish as a physician 

I have always been interested in geriatrics, specifically in innovative ways to combine populations of older people with younger people in shared living situations to improve quality of life and health outcomes for all. I’m also interested in neurology, as I’ve done a fair amount of research work concerning neurodegenerative disease. However, I’m open to the idea that I may be surprised by my clinical experiences, and may be most drawn to something I would never have thought from this side of the white coat.

Dominic Tran (MED’23)

Why I want to be a doctor

My family inspired me to go into medicine. Growing up in an immigrant family of seven, I knew that doctor visits meant financial hardship and language barriers that prevented us from receiving adequate healthcare. My mother, with only a 10th grade education, struggled to communicate with physicians because of her limited English. Despite me translating for her and getting appropriate medications, it was frustrating how I would get sick again a few months later because we didn’t understand that my frequent diet of fast food exacerbated my asthma. Although doctors treated my symptoms, they were unable to address our family’s limited knowledge of basic nutrition or our inability to afford healthier food options. Seeing my parents struggle was especially disheartening to me because I was too young to financially support our family. My family’s struggles motivated me to pursue a career in medicine so that I could better address inequities that prevent other struggling immigrant families from receiving quality healthcare.

Dominic Tran (MED’23) receives his white coat from Robert Witzburg (MED’77), a MED professor emeritus and former associate dean of admissions. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

The person(s) who inspired me to go to medical school

During my second year of college at UCLA, I was part of a streetside clinic that provided healthcare and social resources to homeless people in Los Angeles. It was a great experience, because I learned so much about the homeless population and the types of social support available to them. However, what really stood out to me was how the doctors and medical students treated their patients. Many individuals who visited the clinic had negative experiences in healthcare, and often did not trust their care providers. However, by listening to their stories and referring them to auxiliary programs, the clinic’s providers not only got patients to seek treatment, but also earned their trust. It was humbling; by treating them as more than just patients, we learned so much about their living situations and future goals. As a physician, I want to apply the same concept of patient-centered care so that I can be a true advocate for my patients, especially when they are going through difficult times.

My journey to medical school

During the Vietnam War, my parents came to the United States as refugees and slowly rebuilt the lives they had before they left their home country. My mother struggled to raise five children while my father worked to make ends meet. I remember constantly moving from place to place, often in cramped one-bedroom apartments for months at a time as my father searched for work. Whenever I felt a sense of home, it was always accompanied by the dreaded words, “It’s time to move.” As hard as it was to see my parents struggle to provide for us, they taught me a valuable lesson: obstacles are only motivation for me to try harder to accomplish my goals.

As a child, school was especially difficult since my parents were unable to help me with my schoolwork. Because English was not my first language and there were no other Vietnamese families in my community (El Dorado and Wichita, Kans., and later Southern California), I struggled to communicate with my teachers. Regardless, I learned English quickly because my mother relied on me to be her translator. Although I couldn’t support our family financially, I wanted to help my parents in any capacity I could. As I grew older, with both my parents constantly working, I often watched over my four siblings and helped them with schoolwork while preparing meals. On top of my responsibilities at home, I also made my education a priority and eventually graduated from UCLA with honors. As I reflect on the hardships I had to overcome, I realize they prepared me to become a compassionate doctor for the underserved, and I hope to utilize the skills I have gained as a caregiver, educator, and advocate in my journey to medicine.

What the white coat means to me

To me, putting on the white coat is a step closer to helping the communities I have worked with. While attending UCLA, I helped various marginalized groups obtain resources that alleviated inequalities involving healthcare access and educational needs. From working with communities such as educationally disadvantaged students, Southeast Asians, and homeless individuals, I understood how important it is to recognize that different communities have different health needs and social care. Receiving my white coat reaffirms my commitment to helping these communities and motivates me to effectively treat individuals from a social, cultural, and community context of healthcare.

More personally, the white coat is also my way of conveying to my four siblings that they can accomplish their dreams despite coming from adversity. As the oldest child, it’s part of my responsibility to make sure my siblings are taken care of and doing well. Ever since I decided that I wanted to become a doctor, they watched the sacrifices I made and the hard work it took to get to where I am now. I feel that it’s important for me to show them that regardless of how difficult life can be, there’s a sense of satisfaction when you overcome your challenges and reach your goals.

What I hope to accomplish as a physician

I ultimately see myself practicing in a primarily underserved urban environment with a diverse patient population. I want to learn more about community health dynamics so that I can do more for my future patients who lack access to healthcare, while also addressing their health disparities.

After conducting behavioral neuroscience research with pediatric populations and teaching neuroscience topics to K-12 students, I am strongly interested in the fields of pediatrics and neurology. Pediatrics will allow me to explore the intricacies of development while also providing long-term health interventions that will greatly improve my patients’ quality of life.

Additionally, with the complexities of the brain and its ability to impact basic functions such as movement and breathing, the field of neurology is very exciting. Despite my interest in these two fields, I am very open to learning more about other medical specialties as I progress through my medical education.

Rachel Ingraham (MED’23)

Why I want to be a doctor

I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was a child. When I was four, I was very sick and hospitalized for a brief time. Although the experience was hard on my family, I remember it fondly; I felt extremely safe with the doctors and trusted that they would help me get better. This experience among other positive interactions with pediatricians heavily influenced my decision to become a doctor. But as I got older, I became less comfortable with the idea of my four-year-old self dictating my career trajectory. So I spent the winding years of my premed journey exploring medicine from many angles, including biomedical research, healthcare administration, and patient advocacy. These experiences taught me many lessons and ultimately reaffirmed that my childhood dream was truly right for me.

“We did it!” Wearing her white coat, Rachel Ingraham (MED’23) (center, facing camera) told her mother, Margo Ingraham, as they hugged. Photo by Cydney Scott

The person(s) who inspired me to go to medical school

Although I’ve wanted to be a doctor most of my life, I didn’t feel inspired to apply to medical school until I started working at Boston Medical Center. As a patient advocate, I saw the challenging lives our patients face every day.  My job was to bring resolution when things went awry, and I was privy to what some call the underbelly of medicine. This unique responsibility allowed me to work with people during their darkest moments—when they were most alone, grieving, or felt voiceless. These encounters were beyond humbling and showed me the vast definition of what it means to be human.

I was also privileged to witness the heroic efforts of care providers throughout the institution. No matter the scope or field, the clinicians at BMC embody a relentless commitment to their patients. They catch people and communities when they’ve fallen and provide the structure and resources people need in order to regain and maintain control of their lives.

My acute awareness of human vulnerability and systemic shortcomings paired with the unwavering compassion of BMC providers brought clarity to my calling and ultimately propelled me to apply to medical school.

My journey to medical school

As an African American woman from a lower-middle-class family, I’ve faced a blend of obstacles due to my identity. Although painful, overcoming such adversity has been a major part of my journey to medicine.

The most prominent obstacle was self-doubt perpetuated by internalized racism. At age five, a classmate told me I “can’t do anything, because black girls are stupid!” Although the exchange only lasted 25 seconds, for 25 years I fought to prove that he wasn’t right. But in the deepest parts of myself I worried that it was true, that my skin defined what I had to offer, not my resilience, intelligence, or compassion. Because of this, my path to become a doctor has carried a duality. On one hand, it’s been a journey to gain an understanding of what it is I have declared I will do. On the other hand, it has been about proving to myself that I have what it takes to succeed at what I intend to do.

Ingraham and fellow classmates before the start of the White Coat Ceremony. Photo by Cydney Scott

These feelings of doubt were lightened when I met physicians who looked like me. They modeled my wildest aspirations and showed me what I could become if I persisted.

It was also paramount to surround myself with encouraging people who saw my capacity to achieve. Among this group of positive influences was my family. They’ve been a huge source of strength, particularly my mother, who’s been my greatest advocate and role model for perseverance in the face of adversity.

One of my proudest moments was calling my family after I was accepted to the BU School of Medicine. We shared tears and an inexplicable amount of joy. After all these years of harboring doubt, it was an overwhelming and beautiful feeling to realize that I had actually achieved my dream.

What the white coat means to me

For me, the white coat symbolizes the countless hours of effort, challenges overcome, and lessons learned along the way. It’s a reflection of the many people, mentors, friends, and loved ones that have been a part of my journey. On the other hand, the white coat symbolizes my arrival to the profession of medicine, the next phase of my life, and the journey to come. Most importantly, it represents another step towards taking care of people and positively impacting their health and lives for the better.

Ingraham with family: her grandfather, Ray Pleasant (from left), her mother, Margo, her grandmother, Arthur Gene Pleasant Ingraham, her partner, Eyob Solomon, and her brother, Justin Ingraham. Photo by Cydney Scott

Last year I watched the BU Class of 2022 White Coat Ceremony from outside the tent. As I observed the proud students and families, I told myself that I would march in among the new matriculants next year, that I would sit inside the tent, be donned with a white coat, and speak the Hippocratic Oath. I knew the odds were astronomically tough, but because of my love of this Medical Campus, I told myself that this is where I wanted and needed to be. I’m honestly still in shock and it feels surreal that my dream and vision actually came true. I can’t begin to express how much I am looking forward to this day and how tremendously privileged and honored I feel to be a part of BU School of Medicine Class of 2023.

Christopher Choi (MED’19,’23)

Why I want to be a doctor

My desire to become a physician grew slowly over the course of several years, but it was the culmination of two main factors. My initial interest stemmed from my own health issues, sparking a desire to learn more about the human body. Much later, I grew fascinated with effecting change on a greater macro-level after experiences focused on the administrative side of healthcare. I saw the potential to work towards progress as a physician, not just in the clinic, but in our nation’s health system as a whole, to improve our ability to effectively and efficiently provide quality care. I want to utilize the platform as a frontline provider to inspire change on both a personal, individual level and a greater, systemic level.

Christopher Choi (MED’23) and fellow Class of 2023 MED students reciting the Hippocratic Oath during the White Coat Ceremony. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

The person(s) who inspired me to go to medical school

I was encouraged by a professor of mine, the late Dr. Robin Smith, to explore medical school during my public health studies. Spending time with Dr. Janie Yoo, an opthalmologist I shadowed after college, served as a tipping point in solidifying these aspirations. Last, my father’s career in medicine gave me a personal glimpse into the everyday life of a physician, both the highs and lows, giving me the confidence to pursue this decision wholeheartedly.

My journey to medical school 

I began suffering from debilitating migraine attacks at 16. My first incident forced me off-stage in the middle of a performance, and countless others left me bedridden for days. Thanks to lifestyle changes and a medication regimen, I manage and cope with them better today than I had initially. My own struggle for better health has played a significant role in why I want to follow this path.

Additionally, from an academic standpoint, the other obstacle I faced was more pragmatic: I performed poorly during my undergraduate studies. I remember meeting with an undergraduate advisor about future plans and being told not to ever bother applying to medical schools. However, I was fortunate to discover an amazing opportunity with the BU Master of Science in Medical Sciences Program, which gave me another chance to succeed, eventually leading me to the BU School of Medicine.

What the white coat means to me 

Putting on a white coat means donning the full responsibility of a physician to put patients first. It means abiding by the physician’s oath to “do no harm,” while continuing to strive for the better health of both our people and our communities. It represents a duty to advocate for healthy behaviors and positively influence the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of all patients.

What I hope to accomplish as a physician

I hope to continually challenge myself and my colleagues to look beyond traditional methods in advancing modern health care. The complexities of current problems and challenges in medicine necessitate innovative solutions, and much can be learned and applied from fields such as technology, business, and public health. While we will continue to advance the boundaries of our scientific knowledge and improve medical technologies, I believe those advances only comprise one half of the solution. The other half involves making those same health treatments and innovations more accessible to the patients who need them.

Bruna Pino (MED’23)

Why I want to be a doctor

I was born in Bolivia, raised in Spain, and grew up in the United States. Because I traveled so much growing up, I never quite felt part of a community—that is, one outside of my nuclear family. Over the years living in the United States, I noticed that what my peers considered their community went beyond just their family. They were volunteering and they were getting involved, which created a desire within me for human connection, and I became very keen to serve people. In high school, I delved into my passion for sciences and later on, I connected with the side of medicine that is analytical and mentally stimulating. My upbringing also allowed me to get to know different countries and cultures. Medicine is so global that it enables me to interact with patients from all walks of life. Its universality also allows me to practice anywhere in the world, which is very exciting.

Bruna Pino (MED’23) says her decision to pursue a career in medicine was inspired by her father, Cesar, a cardiothoracic surgeon. Photo by Dave Green

The person(s) who inspired me to go to medical school                                           

My grandfather worked as a truck driver in Bolivia and when my father was of age, he offered to pass the business to him. Knowing he wanted to become a doctor, my father decided to pave his own path, even though that meant leaving the family business behind. He worked late nights as a taxi driver while in school to provide for my brother and mother and through his own determination, exceeded other people’s expectations and eventually became a cardiothoracic surgeon. It was not an easy task, but he was always passionate about what he did. He would come home during lunchtime and share with us the things he did and what he saw, and it all became very interesting to me. It sparked my curiosity. Years after, whenever I had doubts about medicine or whenever the idea of getting into medical school seemed like an impossible task, I thought about him. He had it more difficult than I ever did, and he went into one of the hardest specialties there is. If he could do it, I could too.

My journey to medical school

I moved to the United States just a few weeks before my freshman year of  high school. With a few words of English under my belt—learned through marathons of subtitled American movies—I made it through my first day. Any subject that did not require much English, like art, sports, and math, I did well at. I remember one time I was in my geometry class and the teacher asked the class a question. Previous to this, I had spent many classes preoccupied about speaking up, feeling uncomfortable about my language level, and feeling too scared to participate. Then, as I sat there waiting for others to respond, I realized that I knew the correct answer. I felt a sudden burst of confidence, and I raised my hand. What I failed to foresee at the moment my teacher called on me was my lack of basic mathematical vernacular. I did not know how to say “minus” or “plus” just yet. But through hand signals, my teacher taught me the words and I never forgot them.

I grew up in a home where Spanish was the primary language, and I had to adjust to the American culture and catch up to my peers who had been speaking fluent English their entire lives. Picking up the language had its memorable moments, such as when I learned the word “mild” a little too late at an Indian restaurant or when I embarrassingly mispronounced the word “beach” during a school presentation. However, it was these short bursts of bravery and mispronunciations that helped me eventually overcome the language barrier, reach a deeper level of understanding, and feel at home.

Pino with her mother, Rosemary (from left), her sister, Andrea, and her father, Cesar. Photo by Dave Green

What the white coat means to me

I have lived in Boston for over 12 years now and during this time experienced some terrible, freezing cold winters, but I imagine this will feel like the heaviest coat to wear. When I picture myself receiving my white coat, I am reminded of the many years of constant dedication, hard work, and perseverance it took to get to where I am today. My immigration journey, the gap years in between high school and college, the four years as an undergraduate student figuring out who I was and what made me me, all leading to this moment. The white coat represents my parents: the lessons my mother taught me of strength and patience and the lessons my father taught me of creativity and curiosity. It symbolizes my family’s journey and carries our story. It stands for my culture and what any of us can achieve. The fresh look of the new white fabric constitutes the beginning of something and what there is to look forward to: the sense of belonging to a community of diverse and remarkably inspiring people, the things I will get to learn inside and outside of class, the conversations with future patients, etc. I am empowered by the life I am starting and I am excited for what is to come.

What I hope to accomplish as a physician

When medicine started to interest me, I sought advice from my father, who had worked in several hospitals in Bolivia. When I shadowed doctors there decades later, our experiences were parallel, in that many things had not changed after all these years. My time in Bolivia made me question the extent to which intergenerational social and cultural factors affect a person’s health and instilled in me a desire to be involved in international healthcare. Following the footsteps of Partners In Health cofounder Dr. Paul Farmer, who in his late 20s and while in medical school had started pioneering global health initiatives, I too aspire to develop projects globally that address these social determinants of health.

Pino and classmates after the White Coat Ceremony. Photo by Dave Green

As a doctor, I hope to create a nonprofit healthcare organization in Bolivia that focuses directly on improving the quality of care and promoting health equity in urban cities like my hometown, as well as rural towns that are traditionally underserved. I hope over time it tackles other social justice issues, including women and youth empowerment, as well as access to sexual and reproductive health education.

In the United States, I hope to serve refugee and immigrant communities and learn more about how different ethnicities and populations view medicine. Then my decisions of care on the national and global level will be more inclusive and multidimensional. My hope is to have made a difference advocating for the lives of all my patients no matter their background and to use my own experiences of immigrating and adapting to a new culture to serve as a cultural liaison for them.

As a professional, I have a voice and a platform to create change. And as a female, first-generation Hispanic immigrant going into the medical field, I will work to promote diversity in STEM fields through mentorship opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities.

Tyler Schaeffer (MED’23)

Why I want to be a doctor

I had no distinct light-bulb moment on my journey to medical school. Becoming a physician was in the back of my mind even before high school, but I had a wide variety of other academic interests along the way. Ultimately, after postbaccalaureate education, several jobs, and just watching physicians work, I felt the vocational steadiness I needed to commit to medicine. The blend of scientific rigor and human connection required to function well as a physician drew me in.

Tyler Schaeffer (MED’23) (center) says receiving the white coat “signals the beginning of the humbling and serious work of learning to become a physician.” Photo by Cydney Scott

The person(s) who inspired me to go to medical school

I have had a long-standing desire to work on improving the quality of human life, and I worked with a number of different professionals engaged in this challenge. As a therapeutic mentor at Brookline Community Mental Health Center, I worked on a team with social workers and physicians and the physicians that I worked for—from orthopedic surgeons to psychiatrists—left the largest impression on me. I wanted to have their role on the team, and I enjoyed imagining myself in their shoes.

Additionally, my mother is a registered dietitian and is now pursuing a second master’s degree, in social work. My father is an engineer and a small business leader. I was fortunate to have a home that prized both analytical thought and building strong communities. My decision to become a physician is inspired by the values and priorities that my parents have passed on to me.

My journey to medical school

When I decided that I wanted to go to medical school, well after graduating college, I needed to take prerequisite science courses. I spent 12  months completing all of the required laboratory classes and taking the MCAT. Compressing my studies into this time frame was one of my toughest career challenges. I came from a background in liberal arts and psychology, and I had never taken an undergrad level lab science class. Moreover, I never saw myself as a science and math person, and I had a narrow view of my academic strengths and weaknesses. I had to reinvent the way I thought.

Being a nontraditional premed has its advantages, but changing careers comes with downsides. There is relatively inaccessible yet important knowledge around the process of getting into medical school that I had to catch up on. I also had to let go of the certainties of my original trajectory for something with a definite risk of total failure. However, this also gave me valuable space to confirm that medical school was the right choice for me.

It has all paid off. I have learned a great deal about myself, and I am more energized now than ever about entering medical school. Each challenge has been an opportunity to grow. I am excited to take these next steps.

What the white coat means to me

The white coat is a symbol of the pivotal transition I am making as I pass over from premed to medical student. It is validation of the hard work of the past, while also being a reminder of the responsibilities that lie ahead. I know that accepting it in August provides a moment to reflect, but also signals the beginning of the humbling and serious work of learning to become a physician.

Schaeffer with his mother, Mary Ann (from left), his girlfriend, Molly Javes, and his father, Chris. Photo by Cydney Scott

The support my loved ones contributed to my journey has been invaluable. Getting into medical school and everything that comes with it would have been impossible without the confidence of my parents, partner, friends, and family. While the White Coat Ceremony orients me to the responsibility I have toward patients, it is also a reminder of the efforts of so many in my circle of support.

What I hope to accomplish as a physician

I hope to build a practice that focuses on working with people to improve or restore functionality so that they can live as they would like. I also want to be observant in my work—hopefully producing some valuable scientific insight in order to improve care. There are many roads to this goal, and I do not know where I will end up. I am looking forward to exploring the opportunities that are ahead of me.

This is a BU Today story.