Medical students celebrate in-person White Coat Ceremony

“You,” said Lisa Moscoso, MD, PhD, “are a sight for sore eyes.”

Even with a mask on, it was evident that Moscoso, associate dean for student affairs and a professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, wore a huge smile.

She joyfully welcomed 124 future physicians, the school’s entering class of 2021, to their White Coat Ceremony on Friday, Oct. 29, at the Eric P. Newman Education Center on the Medical Campus. There, first-year medical students from all over country and all over the world received their first white coats, marking the beginning of their journeys to become doctors.

Last year’s incoming class started their medical educations in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and all of its uncertainties. Instead of a large gathering, last year’s ceremony took place in several spaces instead of one, allowing for safe distances; vaccines had not yet been approved. Faculty presented white coats to small groups of mask-wearing students assigned to myriad classrooms. The student’s families and other loved ones watched via livestreams and Zoom.

This year’s class had the benefit of the vaccine and fine-tuned guidelines to defend against the virus, so they were allowed to gather in a large auditorium, and each student was allowed to bring family, though fewer loved ones than in normal years. Everyone in attendance wore masks.

Moscoso noted to the gathering that because of the pandemic and the many standstills it had created, the White Coat Ceremony might be the biggest event any of them had attended since their high school graduations.

The group listened to a thoughtful talk from keynote speaker Jennifer Gould, MD, associate professor of radiology, about the meaning of their white coats — not just to them but to future patients and others who will look to them for answers and support. “Recognize it for the meaning it has for others and the meaning it will have for you,” she told them.

Eva Aagaard, vice chancellor for medical education, the Carol B. and Jerome T. Loeb Professor of Medical Education, and senior associate dean for education, led the class in the student oath the future physicians had crafted together. “I am so proud, so privileged, to have the opportunity to lead you in this oath,” Aagaard said.

Visit the White Coat Ceremony website to read their oath and view further photos and videos from and preceding the event.

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