Each step in an individual’s journey as a physician is taken while wearing a white laboratory coat, the symbol for scientific medicine. At the Spring 2016 School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony, held on January 29 at St. George’s University’s Patrick F. Adams Hall, its keynote speaker, Dr. Arthur Derse, used five narratives to illustrate the power of their chosen profession, beginning with the very ceremony in which they were participating.
“This is your official welcome and your first step in the journey into the profession of medicine,” stated Dr. Derse, the Director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities and Professor of Bioethics and Emergency Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “You will also receive the gift of a very practical article of clothing that you will wear when you meet, talk with, and exam your patients. The donning of your white coats symbolizes an induction and entrance into the path that will lead you forward to the practice of medicine.”
Dr. Derse explained that the tale of the white coat symbolizes the shift to scientific medicine. Physicians wore black coats until recently, and surveys have since shown that patients prefer their caretakers to wear white coats as opposed to scrubs.
The rise of scientists dramatically improved medicine, with the likes of John Snow, the father of modern epidemiology, Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to earn an MD, and global health ambassadors such as Keith B. Taylor paving the way for groundbreaking research and improved results in the health care system.
The third narrative was the fictional stories of medicine, which have served to mold the public’s expectation of a physician, such as literary novels by Albert Camus and Leo Tolstoy, or popular television shows like “ER” or “House.”
Patients’ stories make up the fourth narrative, and through listening with empathy, physicians can lead them back to comfort or a cure through prognosis and treatment. Physicians can then absorb the values embedded in those stories and treat others with greater efficiency, compassion, and understanding.
The fifth narrative, Dr. Derse said, had yet to be told. It was in the hands of the future physicians who stood before him, as well as the Spring 2016 students in SGU’s Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program, who took their oath at Northumbria University two weeks prior.
“To be a good doctor and to write your story well in medicine so you can better help to diagnose, to heal, and to comfort your patient, you’ll need to listen carefully to these tales of your patients, your colleagues and the history of medicine,” he stated. “You won’t need to worry about looking for work in medicine; the work needed to be done will be looking for you.”
Almost two decades earlier, Dr. Hilary Bingol, MD, SGU ’00, the evening’s master of ceremonies had arrived in Grenada to begin her own journey of becoming a physician and was overjoyed to see her alma mater flourishing. “This school and this country are the best place to learn medicine,” said Dr. Bingol, “you will never regret your decision to come here and years from now you will cherish the experiences you will have here.”
Dr. Bingol, now an Administrative Law Judge Physician for Wisconsin Physician Services, had previously practiced full time as a palliative care physician helping to build an outpatient palliative clinic in La Crosse, WI. “I believe my foundation at SGU, along with my clinical years are what allowed me to be so successful on my USMLE, internal medicine and hospice and palliative medicine board exams,” she extolled. “Congratulations on starting the most gratifying career you can have, and no matter what you do with your MD it will serve you well.”
Also present at the ceremony was Dr. G. Richard Olds, the first-ever President and Chief Executive Officer of St. George’s University. He explained to the matriculating class the unique privilege society grants those in the health care professions; that opportunity given even to medical students to directly interact with patients, to listen to their medical problems and to be their confidants. “However, this rare privilege society bestows also comes with the responsibility to act in a very professional and helpful manner,” counseled Dr. Olds. “And that is the theme of your donning the white coat. You accept both that rare privilege and that responsibility from the very first day of your training in the medical profession.”
Highlights of the evening included, the amazing husband and wife duo, William and Jessica Baas walking on stage together to be robed simultaneously; along with Drs. David Hansen, MD SGU ’95, and Dominic Grecco, MD SGU ’85, brimming with emotion and pride as they robed their sons, James and Jonathan, respectively.
Later, Jonathan Grecco described how he’s always wanted to be a doctor just like his father, who’s very passionate about his profession and very proud of the education he received at SGU. “For me it’s a rite of passage into the profession that I’ve been working my whole life towards to be like my role model – my dad,” said the Bedford, NY resident. “My dad is very excited to be back on the island, he’s always been very proud of SGU and now he gets to share that connection with me. For him to be here to welcome me into the medical community as I take the same path he took is a very proud moment and he was very emotional on stage.”
The School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony marked the first full day of fun-filled activities as it coincided for the fifth straight term with Beyond Spice Family Weekend at SGU. Parents and loved ones spent the day exploring Grenada and getting a taste of campus life at SGU, prior to the momentous White Coat Ceremony.
Published on 2/2/16