January 2013

Medical Students “Robed” with White Coats at Clinical Commencement Ceremony

Wed, 30 January 13 09:00

In preparation for their transition to full-time clinical education, 202 undergraduate and graduate entry medical students were “robed” with white coats at the annual UCD Medicine White Coat / Clinical Commencement Ceremony, which took place at UCD on 22nd January.

Now in its fourth year, the white coat ceremony marks the mid-way point of students’ medical education at UCD, and serves as a reminder to students of their obligation to ‘do good for the people that you serve’.

Video: Professor Patrick Murray opening UCD Medicine White Coat Ceremony 2013

Speaking at the ceremony, Professor Patrick Murray, interim Dean of Medicine at UCD and Head of UCD School of Medicine & Medical Science said:

The awarding of a white coat by our academics to you, our students, represents the increased professional privileges but also the responsibilities that accompany this transition. In addition to the expectations of professionalism in practice, conduct, and ethics, you are also joining a medical community, in which it is your primary responsibility, above all other considerations, to be a strong advocate for patients.

This is particularly important in a period of shrinking healthcare resources, in which you must reinforce the standard of evidence-based best practice to guide management of patients under your care.

The keynote speaker at the ceremony was Dr Colm Henry (UCD, 1988), Consultant Geriatrician in the Mercy University Hospital, Cork.

Dr Henry, who was recently appointed as National Programme Lead for the Clinical Director Programme of the Health Service Executive (HSE), reminded students of the symbolism of the white coat.

Like all mementos, the white coat evokes memories and sensations of all the hospitals where I worked, long after I’d forgotten faces and names. A particular emergency department, a tough night on call, the ‘res’, and more than anything else; the great camaraderie that you build up on those nights with colleagues, who at this point in time are your co-students, but in time will be your comrades-in-arms as you enter the world of medicine.

Dr Henry, quoting the American writer Susan Sontag, urged the assembled students to remember always that there is a person behind every illness.

Illness is the night side of life; a more onerous citizenship. All of us are born with dual citizenship; to the kingdom of the well, and the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later, at least for a spell, each of us is obliged to identify ourselves as citizens of that darker place.

Speaking about the evolution and development of the medical profession in Ireland and internationally, Dr Henry said:

The idea of what our profession means now is not that of a detached, cold observer; which has been cultivated for too long. It is about you and your patients, as fellow human beings, in this great sea of humanity – someone who they can trust to do their best, with the best skills and the best training.

Quoting Professor Kim Oates of the University of Sydney, Dr Henry said:

The tradition of medical care is based on what doctors do, and not what patients need. The new generation of clinical leaders will first and foremost want to make a difference for good in the lives of their patients.

In closing, Dr Henry said:

I’d like to wish you and your white coats, the best of luck in all the adventures that lie ahead; the great rollercoaster of exams, tutorials, ward rounds and nights on call. You will make friends for life, and you will create great bonds throughout your career. I hope that the respect you gain as a doctor will be earned based on your skills, training, and your connection to the person who trusts you to provide the best possible care.

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