The physician’s white coat is one of the most recognizable symbols of the medical profession. It signifies a relationship between physicians and their patients, and the obligation to practice medicine with clinical competence and compassion.
For the class of 125 third-year medical students who took part in the UMKC School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony this year, it also signified an important next step in the journey to joining the rank of physicians.
“Soon, you will be part of this distinctive group,” said Jill Moormeier, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine.
Moormeier served as emcee for this year’s event, which shifted from its usual campus location to a virtual format because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Students participated by watching online with family and friends. In many cases, students traditionally “coated” by their new docent during the ceremony shared that honor with parents instead.
Following the online presentation, the newest students to graduate to the UMKC Health Sciences District campus enjoyed a Zoom reception with new docent team members.
Moormeier explained that the White Coat Ceremony represents a shift in the student’s education from a focus on classroom work to bedside care. She and School of Medicine Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., underscored that transition by reminding the class members of the professional responsibilities they will have as physicians.
Jackson said that six months into the pandemic, as they enter the intensive clinical phase of medical training that includes regular contact with patients, students must embrace those professional and personal responsibilities of health care providers working on the front lines of patient care. That, she said, includes following and promoting the safety precautions necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.
She also spoke of the school’s commitment to racial justice in the community and throughout medical care. She encouraged students, as they don their white coats, to embrace the call to action.
“Lessons you learn along the way will guide your path to growing and developing as a healer who cares for patients with compassion and empathy,” she said. “Your white coat is a daily reminder of your commitment to patients, learning and understanding that struggle and reward are an opportunity to grow.”
Also during the ceremony, Jesica Neuhart, professor of pediatrics and pediatric hospitalist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, was honored as this year’s Outstanding Years 1-2 docent. Each third-year class nominates a Year 1-2 docent for the award based on their teaching pursuit of excellence in medicine.
Third-year student Anna Boda said Neuhart “embodies the qualities of a perfect docent doctor, going above and beyond to provide the best educational resources for her students.” She said this year’s winner also served as a role model for teamwork and respect with all members of the health care team.
After Corrine Workman, also a third-year student, read the Class of 2024 Philosophy of Medicine, Brenda Rogers, associate dean for student affairs announced the new docent team assignments for the 2020-2021 school year.
Jackson said, “Remember, medicine is a team sport and you are part of a team.”
The School of Medicine conducted its first White Coat Ceremony for third-year students in 2003. The program is sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation to emphasize the importance of compassionate care for patients and proficiency in the art and science of medicine.