On the same stage that just one day before marked the transition from med student to M.D., soon-to-be third-year medical students received an important tool for their next two years of medical school.
The UF College of Medicine class of 2012 received their white coats Saturday, May 23, during a 13-year-old tradition that signifies the end of basic science education and the beginning of clinical rotations.
“What you wear says something about you,” said class of 2012 academic chair Robert Casey, who addressed his classmates and more than 1,000 family, friends, faculty and alumni at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
Casey recalled an international health trip he took to Peru during his first year of medical school. While walking alone to clinic in scrubs, a native boy called after him, “Doctor, que tal?” While Casey stood a bit taller after hearing someone call him doctor for the first time, he also hoped the child was not in need of medical care because, he says, at that point in his medical training, he could only help “teach the boy how to study.”
“It is then when I realized that there are monumental realities and expectations based on what you wear,” said Casey.
Michael L. Good, dean of the College of Medicine, reflected on the tools the students have received to date. As first-year medical students, they received a stethoscope, which taught them the importance of listening to their patient. Today they have a new set of responsibilities.
“You are now clothed in a uniform of knowledge and expertise, of trust and of skill, of compassion and care based on sound scientific judgment,” Good said.
For Lauren Van Eldik, this uniform and this ceremony were not just College of Medicine traditions, but also a family tradition. Van Eldik was escorted on stage by her father, Richard Van Eldik, a COM graduate and gastroenterologist in Ocala, and her grandfather, a retired family physician. Her aunt, an anesthesiologist, also watched as Lauren Van Eldik represented the third generation of physicians in her family.
“This was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments,” Van Eldik said about taking the next step in her medical training with her family by her side.
Also in attendance were two alumni from the college’s first graduating class of 1960. Good recognized the first female graduate, Jean Bennett, M.D., and Charles Ozaki, M.D.
The White Coat Ceremony is sponsored by the Office of Medical Alumni Affairs and the Mark S. Gold, M.D., White Coat Ceremony Endowment.
It concluded with the students reciting their Class Code of Ethics, which includes 10 declarations of commitment written by the class. Then came the smiles, hugs and pride, not to mention plenty of students in white coats posing for photographs.