Grad school rituals: Doctors

One of the rituals that is part of the osteopathic medical program is “the white coat ceremony” at the beginning of their program. It’s a ritual that forms one’s identity.

The students are given the white coat of a doctor and asked to take the hippocratic oath. The ceremony is meant to reassure and inspire. The students are reminded that they have been blessed to be in the program and are preparing to help and bless others. Because they have been admitted, they do not need to be overcome by stress or doubt their worth and so compete with each other to be the best in the program. Instead, they can rejoice in each other’s talents and help each other out. The white coat ceremony itself is an inspiration, presenting the new students with a picture of who they are becoming, so that they will be committed to do the hard work in the years to come, as well as seek out help when things do not go well. The program is set up to encourage and challenge medical students to live as people who have been chosen and who have a calling.*

A description of this formative ceremony was recently posted on MSU’s website: “White coat ceremony begins medical school journey.” The article highlights how this step changes them and they become part of a community, in which”their actions do not only reflect on them individually, but also on the college, the university and the profession.” At the same time, they are already part of a community, and speakers at the convocation encouraged the students to appreciate the support that they’ve had from friends and family, as well as support that they’ll receive by reaching out to others if and when they need help.


*This description was used previously in a sermon illustration (sermon preached at River Terrace Church, Thanksgiving 2015).

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