Most patients have no voice in the politics which will inevitably affect them the most. As a physician, I will be the voice for what my patients deserve. As a feminist, I will advocate for amazing women all over the world. As a human being, I will fight for what I believe is right.
Do you know why doctors wear white? For centuries, medicine was not as effective as one would expect; treatment was based on ancient knowledge of anatomy, folklore, and traditional remedies rather than real scientific evidence, and despite the best efforts of physicians at the time, patients suffered for it. Healers actually wore black out of a sense of formality or gravity in the face impending death. It was only in the last century that medicine embraced clear scientific practices. We learned that disease can be spread by germs, and developed medications and techniques to sterilize ourselves and prevent infections that have plagued humanity for generations. Physicians began to wear laboratory coat white as a way to reflect this new outlook, one of truth seeking, cleanliness, and new life. The white coat is a symbol of our vow to do no harm, of hope for the future, and a reminder to always seek new ways to aid those in need of our help, in whatever capacity that may be. Every time I put on my white coat, that is the message I want to send to anyone who sees it.
My white coat envelops the day to day minutia of medical school to remind me of my accountability to my peers, myself and my profession. It represents my personal challenge to hold myself to a high standard of responsibility for others. It’s a reminder to improve myself academically beyond my grades, and seek experience and perspective so I can best serve my patients.
My study of medicine has fueled a fascination with the question of what it is to be human. As I have come to see it, putting on my white coat articulates a desire to understand human form and function while satisfying a natural inclination to grasp the common human experience. It is this unique human connectedness that most draws me to medicine, a vehicle for improving the quality of life of others without difference or judgement.
My white coat symbolizes a blank canvas. It serves as a platform upon which the patients I encounter can depict their stories – both medical and personal. Even as medical students, patients entrust us with the most intimate, vulnerable details of their lives. Every time we walk into a patient’s room donned in our white coats, we carry with us the promise of a nonjudgmental, attentive ear and a helping hand.
The Jesuit principle of “magis” means "more," and I have adopted this mantra as motivation to to do better and be better in all aspects of my life. Patients need more than a five minute question-and-answer barrage, more than a pre-op visit emphasizing technicality over humanity. As a prospective surgeon, I aim to spend as much time discussing my patients' weekends as I do their upcoming procedures. I want to know them as more than a left knee replacement or appendectomy, to know their lives as mothers and fathers and children. Magis will guide me through late night shifts and challenging cases, pushing me to always do more for every patient.
Being in the Air Force, my patients will all have worked hard at keeping our country safe, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need someone to look out for their health as well. My white coat means I’ll be there every step of the way, preventing disease and treating my fellow Airmen as the need arises. Safety isn’t just the way we prevent problems. It’s a bedside manner, open communication, and a promise to do my best for all my patients.
Jim Chihun Han
To truly help someone, one needs more than just compassion and a desire to help. One has to have practical skills and resources to offer the services that people need. My white coat serves as a reminder for me to stay humble, work hard, and never stop learning, not for myself, but for the patients.
Doctors have a long and terrible history of policing queer bodies through treatments and surgical procedures, discriminating against members of the LGBT community by denying gender identity or necessary care, and maintaining a hostile environment for both members of the medical team and the patient. It's telling that a lot of health care disparities in the LGBT community are a result of fear of going to the doctor and that one study claimed about 30% of non-heterosexual med students did not disclose their sexual or gender identity during their time in med school. I wear my white coat as an act of rebellion against a field that wants to deny and forget my existence, in the hope that I can help make the medical community a better place for my fellow members of the queer community. That being said, I recognize that I am still a white male presenting human and that is still an untrustworthy figure for many. I know that the white coat is a strong player in queer erasure and wearing it can be a step backward in my attempts. My white coat reminds me of what I look like, what I need to do to hopefully counteract that fear and erasure, and what I should do to make medicine less dangerous to people like me.
Every day, our careers will intersect with the lives of others at their most vulnerable moments. Vulnerability is a virtue -- we can never let those moments feel small. The most important acts of healing are driven by being present. My white coat is a reminder that once that door is closed, my #1 priority is to be there alongside my patients, wherever that may be.
This coat is a symbol of my choice and promise to be a physician who upholds the Georgetown and Jesuit motto of cura personalis. I am committed to caring for the whole patient-- body, mind, and soul. I am so proud to attend a university whose mission is to not only create exceptional clinicians, but to create true healers.
There is a quote attributed to Father Pedro Arrupe, S.J. that speaks of love. It goes, “Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." This is what the white coat means to me. Sure, I’m not always thrilled that medical school is what I do with my evenings and weekends, but nothing else makes me feel more grounded, more myself. I have fallen in love with medicine, with my future patients, with the act of healing and the act of sitting with others in their suffering, in their humanity. To me, this is vocation.
Going to medical school and committing to becoming a physician only really made sense to me when I began volunteering through my undergraduate university's service learning program. Building relationships with people who had been marginalized and stigmatized by substance abuse, homelessness, mental illness, or HIV status--and feeling a sense of shared humanity between us--propelled me to prioritize working for social justice by leveraging my talents & privilege for others. Being a physician and combining science with direct service will let me do just that--it's the best way I can think of for me to positively impact the world.
This white coat has been a catalyst for me to reflect on the blessings and privilege to be in this profession. I learned that with this white coat comes a sacred oath to fulfill the sacred trust bestowed on us by society. To me, being accepted by this white coat, I in return accept to commit to fight for the justice that my patients, all communities and societies, and all those who are vulnerable deserve. Healing does not stop at the physical well being, but transcends to include economical, social, spiritual, emotional and all elements of life. It is truly humbling for me.
My white coat means appreciating all of the aspects that contribute to my patients' health. As a double Hoya with a unique Georgetown degree in International Health, I have become one with the idea that health requires caring for the whole person. The diverse experiences that Georgetown has afforded me both locally and abroad over the past five years have shown me that the most important aspect of being a care provider is listening. My white coat means that I will dedicate myself to listening to my patients to understand how I can best support their emotional and physical well-being.
The decision to leave my career in theater was the hardest I’ve had to make. A lot of reasons compelled me to pursue the change; ultimately I felt like I had more to contribute to this world than what theatre would allow. I chose to give up all the roles I might have played for the final role of physician.
Many Americans have access to one of the greatest systems of healthcare in the world, and are able to take advantage of the latest technology and therapies, while some have limited access to care due to the unequal distribution of the social determinants of health. I want to give back, and serve those who are underserved, but I also want to be a part of the change that eliminates the health inequities present in this country, because neither where you’re from, nor the color of your skin, nor your gender, nor your sexual orientation should define your life expectancy. I hope to improve the health of my patients and my community through primary care, advocacy, and community-based interventions.
I have a love-hate relationship with my white coat. On the one hand, it empowers me to learn, serve, and advocate. On the other, it sets me apart from the individuals I wish to sit and speak with eye to eye, hand in hand. Nonetheless, through this conflict I have found compromise on one notion: that it is an extraordinary privilege to be invited into the lives of others, and an immense task to be worthy of their trust.
My humble beginnings are something I cherish greatly, because without them I wouldn't be the person I am today. Both my parents immigrated from Mexico and because of their illegal status, healthcare was never an option. Throughout my life my family has always relied on public hospitals, community health centers, and the emergency department. Experiencing this type of adversity has made me aware of the immense demand for doctors who can provide quality healthcare to underprivileged communities. My white coat means that, as a current medical student and future doctor, I will care for the underserved patients who have been abandoned by our healthcare system; patients like my parents, my neighbors, my friends.
My white coat is a humble reminder to me first and foremost of the responsibility I carry to serve and care for my future patients. It is an emblem of dedication, hard-work, and commitment. My white coat also gives me a greater sense of purpose. Medicine is about understanding and listening to other human beings just as much as it is about the study of human bodies. A medical school student just starting out in her career in medicine, when I put on my white coat, the newness of it gives me a paradoxical feeling of both pride and humility. From my 4th grade elementary school teacher who encouraged my love of learning to my college mentors to my most beloved supporters, my parents, I’m humbled by all of these role models who shaped who I am and allowed me the opportunity to contemplate what this white coat means. I hope to wear this humility and gratitude throughout my journey in medicine.
My medical education is, without a doubt, the most tremendous gift I have ever received. Every time I put on this white coat, I am reminded of how privileged I am to be where I am, and the responsibilities that accompany this privilege. On the day I received this coat and first took the Hippocratic Oath, I also made a commitment to share this gift with those who need it most. This skill set I am learning can potentially improve the lives of so many for whom healthcare is still, tragically, inaccessible. When I eventually swap out this coat for a longer one, I will carry this commitment to serve the underserved through my entire career.
My white coat represents resilience, and to be able to use my tenacity to be a healthcare advocate for my patients, particularly the underserved. My role as a future physician will involve a dependable partnership with my patients by working together to improve their health. Through reliable communication, I will be better able to support my patients, and offer more personalized care. With expanding my knowledge each year, my perception of the white coat has strengthened my understanding on the importance of a meaningful interaction with patients that will shape their lives in some way. These different patient interactions, including those with others in the healthcare field, will contribute to the progression of quality health services.
I have been blessed with two role models who have exemplified selfless commitment to those in need. Everyday, I am thankful for having two parents who have worked tirelessly to help others. Growing up, I watched my father embody cura personalis as he spent long hours caring for and tending to the needs of his patients. Likewise, I witnessed my mother volunteer her time for the past twenty years as a full time elementary school teacher instilling the love of reading into her students all without pay. My parents' work ethic and passion to selflessly care for others has inspired me. Every time I wear my white coat, I wish to honor my parents and pay forward the blessings that I have been given. I look forward to a life of service to others where I can help those who truly are in need.
The white coat is a reminder for the practitioner and the patient that we share a common goal, to improve the patient's state of being. We as future physicians have an obligation to uphold patient safety, not as a priority that can be shifted, but a core value that forever remains in place. We have a duty to continually improve the quality of our service and interactions with the community we serve. Physicians have the power to make change, but we must see our patients as fellow human individuals. We must work together to uphold the trust of the people, advocate for their rights and needs, educate the masses, advance our best practices, and return the ill to a state of wellness to the best of our abilities.