The white coat is a polarizing symbol, both to those who see it and to those who wear it. For medical students, the short white coat is an object of identification and standardization. As a utility, it clearly demarcates our professional role within a healthcare team. But beyond its functional role as an identifier, the white coat adopts a deeper symbolic meaning unique, yet malleable, to its owner.
We asked second year medical students what their white coats means to them. Their responses speak to their motivations for entering medicine, their future aspirations, and life philosophies. Many of their reflections share themes: that medicine is a vocation, a special window into unfiltered humanity, and a position from which to effect change and help others.
As much as the white coat standardizes every person in these photos, they all remain individuals, each with a story to tell. For many, this story is a narrative in progress, as the meaning of their white coats ebbs and flows with their own medical journeys. We hope these photos and reflections lay bare those stories.