St. George’s University School of Medicine officially welcomed a fresh class of medical students on January 21, 2008 at the new Charter Hall auditorium to mark their entry into medicine at the symbolic White Coat Ceremony, the 25th of the series. The 424 students in this class hail from 26 countries; after the United States, the countries with the highest student representation were Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom.
The SGU alumni Master of Ceremonies was Dr. John Madden, Associate Dean of Students in the United States and Director of the Office of Student Development and Career Guidance. Resisting the temptation to speak about the history of the medical school, Dr. Madden gave a vivid account of his life as a physician in the emergency department of a major New York hospital.
Dr. Allen Pensick, the Provost, welcomed the students to the University on behalf of the Chancellor, expressed the Chancellor’s deep regret at being unable to attend the White Coat Ceremony, and wished them well as they begin a “great and noble” career.
In introducing Dr. Leigh B. Grossman, the keynote speaker, Dr. Madden spoke of her distinguished career in pediatrics.
In marked contrast to her imposing academic record, however, Dr. Grossman spoke about three simple, yet crucial, things for every physician to follow.
“Firstly, you will be called on to take care of patients everywhere and throughout your professional and personal life and to not compromise on the care of those that feel they can request this of you (your family, close friends, etc.) but rather to provide them with the best possible medical care. Secondly, you must have a life outside of medicine…to perfect a life, not just a profession. And, thirdly, you should get to know your patients…the social history…who they really are as the people behind the illnesses…know what they do, where they have been, what their personal story is and in real detail as this will affect how they react to a new diagnosis and how they manage and/or cope with their medical diagnosis. Their social history, their story will similarly affect the outcome of the diagnosis that you make.”
To illustrate her point, Dr. Grossman described some social histories of her patients and ended each by concluding “and I am still learning.” She concluded her speech by revealing parts of her own social history and stated that no doctor should treat her as a patient without being aware of it. The students, and indeed the rest of the audience, were privileged to receive such a powerful message.
During the ceremony student Kristin Coppola received her white coat from her father Dr. Anthony Coppola, an SOM alumnus and this added a special charm to the ceremony.