A medical student never forgets the day they receive their white coat. For all of us, it's the day that marks our entry into the medical profession.
White Coat Day is exciting and intensely focused on the future. Ahead of everyone that receives that coat lies countless tables to memorize, stressful exams, long nights on call, and an inevitable caffeine dependence. The white coat ceremony is just the first in a long line of rituals that will bind the class together: anatomy lab, board exams, standardized patients, grand rounds, and more will still follow. And while the immediate future for every first year holds far more time in the library than in front of patients, White Coat Day remains a celebration of the therapeutic alliance we will share with our patients in the seemingly distant future.
It is important to view the coat as a symbol of that alliance. It's the reason it means so much to us. At the moment we receive it, it is not only a reflection of ourselves at that point in time. Rather, it is emblematic of the role we hope to enter after years of training. The white coat represents a vocation that is becoming real.
To welcome the class of 2020 to the medical profession, we invited them to participate in a photo series entitled "My White Coat Means." These photos and the reflections that accompany them illustrate the diverse paths that every member of the class has taken to this point. Their past experiences, narratives, and inspirations vary tremendously, but together they've started a long journey. As you will see, the white coat means something different to each of them.