A rite of passage: Third-year medical students don their white coats

The iconic images that celebrate transitions in medical education went from hoods to coats this past weekend at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

On the same stage that served as a platform for COM graduation just one day before, class of 2011 medical students took part in UF’s 12-year-old tradition and donned their white coats on Sunday, May 17 in a ceremony sponsored by the Office of Medical Alumni Affairs and the Mark S. Gold, M.D., White Coat Ceremony Endowment.

“Today’s white coat ceremony is a more profound and more personal ritual for each of you,” said interim dean Dr. Michael Good, as he officially welcomed the sea of 875 smiles belonging to students, friends and family and compared the event to graduation.

“The white coat ceremony is, for you, about becoming a physician,” Good said.

Well wishes for success by Dr. David Libert, president of the UF Medical Alumni Association, were followed by a unique presentation by one of the students’ most revered faculty members, Dr. Patrick Duff, associate dean for student affairs and professor of obstetrics and gynecology.

Dr. Patrick Duff grabbed the audience's attention while he illustrated the meaning of the white coat ceremony. Photo by Priscilla Santos

Dr. Patrick Duff addresses students and their families at the recent white coat ceremony. Photo by Priscilla Santos

Wearing a casual button-down shirt, baseball cap and book bag, Duff illustrated how the students’ “tools” officially change from these garments and a laptop to a physician’s crisp white coat, stethoscope and tiny reference books.

“You now have conquered the Mount Everest of medical school – the basic science years,” said Duff.

“Today,” he continued, “marks a major transition from classroom student to clinical practitioner, from book-learner to thoughtful observer of people, from passive reader to active doer.”

And, so, with 35 years of experience in medicine under his belt, Duff graciously offered his six rules of the road to the soon-to-be third-year medical students who will catch a glimpse of the hectic and demanding schedule of a physician.

“Be passionate about your work, be persistent in enhancing your knowledge, be patient and professional, avoid arrogance and strive for balance.”

The students beamed as they walked across the stage to meet Duff and Dr. Maureen Novak, associate dean for medical education, who coated them with the symbol that identifies them with the profession.

“This day of transition,” said Dr. Kendall Campbell, assistant dean for minority affairs, “is a symbol of confidence for you and hope for your patients.”