After two years, the moment you have all been waiting for has finally arrived. Drumroll please…. white coat ceremony! If your school is like mine, we don’t have the pleasure of the ceremony a few days before the first year of med school. Instead, we must work hard to earn it, and to truly live up to its name as a rite of passage. Nevertheless, its a fun and amazing experience that I hope everyone who has dreamed of becoming a doctor to enjoy one day.
The basic way the ceremony works is that you enter the hall/building in which it will be held, and gather in a back room with the rest of your classmates and the faculty while your family is seated in the audience. When the MC announces that its time for the ceremony to begin, some eerie music begins and its on with the show. The clinical faculty sail in first wearing full graduation regalia minus the caps. Next, two faculty members, each representing either the left or right side, enters while we students file in behind them on the red carpet (yes a real red carpet!) in the pre-determined order. After our fashionable entrance, we sit in seats cloaked by our freshly minted brand spanking new white coats. Although we wore white coats to our clinical classes previously, they did not have the school badge that signifies completion of the basic sciences. The new ones at the ceremony do.
After listening to 45 minutes of speeches, the eerie music is turned back on and our names are called in groups of five to be coated by the faculty. Now, the way it works is that when your name is called, you march up onto the stage, walk to the farthest faculty member, stick your arms to the back and have the physician “coat” you. Several weeks before the ceremony, I contacted the woman in charge of arranging the event and requested a female faculty member to coat me, just in case the male physician wanted to shake my hand or pat me on the shoulder. She readily agreed and assured me that it was no inconvenience. Sure enough, when my name was called, the male physician who was supposed to coat me stepped to the back and allowed the Dean of the department of Medicine to coat me in his stead. It was done in a very respectful way and the transition was so smooth, no one noticed it. Best of all, I was the only person in my entire class coated by her!
After everyone has been coated, we all return to our seats and read the Hippocrates Oath alongside the Dean and make to solemn vow to use our knowledge for only pure, selfless deeds. That wraps up the end of the hour, and then its refreshments and picture taking with friends and families.
As my blog is named hijabi in a white coat, you might wonder what this hijabi wore for her ceremony! As you may know, the white coat worn by third and fourth years is a short clinic coat, not that long, “button it closed and can pretend its a tunic” coat. It’s a sign that you are still a student and I guess the length is to indicate that you are still “short” of your medical knowledge. Anyway, you need to dress formally for the ceremony, and you can’t get away like the guys can wearing a shirt, tie and slacks. Naturally, the best thing is to wear a dress, but not a poofy ballroom one worthy of your friend’s wedding; a simply design one will do the trick. I confess: I do like (modest!) party dresses, but usually pair them with a fancy cardigan or blazer. However, when you are getting coated, you really don’t want to wear something bulky or it’ll ruin the look. At the same time, you must remember the short length of the coat or else you’ll wear a long cardigan that has the ends trailing out like coat tails. And on top of all this, please don’t wear black or any drab colors! This is a happy day, so pick some bright colors! Keeping all this mind, I wore a chiffon pleated dress that was ice blue and coral, with a coral cardigan that was just the length of the white coat, with an ice blue hijab. And don’t forget the shoes! I wore sandal wedges, yet still seemed very short next to all my female classmates sporting 5 inch spike heels (a salute to all those who have the fortitude to withstand wearing them for several hours).
White coat is a wonderful experience that every medical student dreams of; its the next best thing to graduation! Whether its a celebration of your entrance to medical school or for transitioning into your third year, its an achievement you should be proud of and a motivation for what’s left of the road to your future. I’m using my coat as my motivation to study for boards this upcoming July inshaAllah (duaa please!!!), and when I look at that patch and see the class of 2017 embroidered on the arm, I remember that I’m one step closer to fulfilling my dreams.