The Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell presented nearly 100 new medical students with white coats at a special ceremony held at the Toni and Martin Sosnoff Theater in the John Cranford Adams Playhouse at Hofstra University on Oct. 23, 2017. This year marks the School of Medicine’s seventh class to embark on this traditional rite of passage into a career in medicine. It is also the first class to mark the start of their professional journey under the School of Medicine’s new name officially announced on Aug. 30, 2017.
In the presence of family, friends, staff, and administrators, including Michael Dowling, CEO and president of Northwell Health, representatives of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, Quest Diagnostics, and Becton Dickinson, Zucker School of Medicine students were individually “cloaked” in their first white coat by core faculty. Students also received pins representing their commitment to humanism in medicine and for completion of emergency medical training.
The white coat, presented to students at this stage in training at the Zucker School of Medicine instead of at the start like other institutions, represents not only the students’ transformation from person to professional but also official recognition as a colleague in medicine.
“Just ten weeks into their first year, our students demonstrate and understand how to perform complete histories and physicals, learned scientific principles of disease, and have all become certified EMTs licensed by the state of New York,” said David Battinelli, MD, dean for medical education. “Already they have seen the world through the eyes of both caregiver and patient.”
Following the presentation of white coats, the Class of 2021 recited a pledge, adapted from the Hippocratic Oath, which emphasized the importance of the doctor-patient relationship and compassion in medicine.
“Today is one of those special days of our lives; it is a step toward a dream that many of us have thought about since we were kids,” said Michael Catalano, recently elected 2021 Class Chair. “Our class has become so close so quickly—it’s truly a collaborative journey together.”
The symbolic event culminated in a reception and unveiling of a painted portrait of the medical school’s founding dean, Lawrence G. Smith, MD—a gift given to the dean by the inaugural class of students. “Our school would not be what it is today without the creativity and hard work of all its pioneers in medical education,” said Dr. Smith, “which includes each and every one of our students, faculty, and staff at the School of Medicine.”
The tradition of the White Coat Ceremony began in 1993 at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. Dr. Gold, a teacher and pediatric neurologist for more than 40 years at Columbia, noted at the 1991 commencement ceremony that students were reciting the Hippocratic Oath four years too late. Dr. Gold believed that it was much more apropos for students to receive their white coats and take the Oath when they begin their medical training, particularly given that the initial years of training includes their first contact with patients.