The White Coat Ceremony doesn’t really kick off medicalschool, many of you may not know. Technically, it starts days before,with lectures, group exercises, trips to the library and even patientinteraction. OK, they may be more on the fun side, but everyone certainlylearns something during orientation week they’re bound to put toward theirmedical careers.
It’s Monday morning, and the future of medicine sits—168students in all, chatting, introducing themselves to one another in theBiomedical Research Building auditorium.
J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, dean of the medicalschool, opens the day, joined by Gail Morrison, MD, dean of Education,and others, including Ken Ginsburg, MD, a professor of Pediatrics, withan inspiring and thought-provoking talk that struck a chord with students.“Surviving medical school with your soul intact” was the name of his talk, andat the core was compassion for patients and being fair. Take care ofyourself, not just your patients, and enjoy life with friends and families, hetold them. Afterward, four or five students stopped Dr. Ginsburg to commend himfor the talk, letting him know that his words resonated.
After lunch with advisory deans, the students headed toStemmler Hall to get their new iPads. This is the second year Penn has equippednew students with the devices. “This represents the latest step in a 15-yeartechnology investment to bring medical curriculum into the digital age,” saysDr. Morrison. Next was the Biomedical Library.
The students needed to get the lay of the library land, sowhat better way to show it off than with a Game-of-Thrones -themedstations: patron services (The Wall), computer center (Dothraki Sea), wirelessand mobile (Winterfell), and poster printing (The Eyrie). I know whatyou’re thinking: What’s with the theme? But I think the more important questionis, why not? Med school is tough and can be very serious, so why not preface itwith a fun pop culture reference? Perhaps it was a warning. “Winter is coming!”the shows’ characters always proclaim. Or in the med students’ case, hard work.
They bowled that night. And the next day was geared moretoward student life: safety and urban biking; public transportation; mentalhealth; and money management. War stories from second year students werenext, and a lecture from David Horowitz, MD, associate chief medical officer ofthe health system, on the medical self-help book Better by Atul Gawandefollowed.
Just three more days to get that short, white coat andceremonial stethoscope.
Wednesday and Thursday took the students out for some freshair. Team building and skits (which I’m told are very, very funny)dominated their time at the ACE Conference Center in Lafayette Hill. Theidea is to get the students working together again, trust each other. Gettinginto medical school is a very competitive, individualized mission. Now it’stime to break away from that and hold hands. Ok, maybe not, but at least learnto successfully take care of patients together.
Speaking of patients, the next morning, the students hadgroup discussions led by Penn doctors about the importance of communicationbetween doctors and the people they treat. There was even a patient panel. Andthen (finally) came the White Coat Ceremony.
That afternoon, before Frank T. Leone, MD, MS,associate professor of Medicine, delivered his keynote “Where You’re Headed: ToBe Determined,” the new students came up on the Zellerbach Theater stage, oneby one, to be “coated” by Dr. Morrison in front of family and friends (the onesthat helped them get there!) They said their names, where they want tocollege and where they were from. Some added in heartfelt thanks. Andsome threw in a little humor. “Mom, thanks for doing my laundry last night,”quipped one gentleman.
As the crowd laughed, I thought to myself: “See, they had abusy week—he probably didn’t have time to do it himself.”