February 2018 | Feabhra 2018

2018 Clinical Commencement ‘White Coat’ Ceremony

Sat, 10 February 18 18:44

The 2018 UCD Medicine Clinical Commencement ‘White Coat’ Ceremony took place in UCD O’Reilly Hall on Friday 9th February 2018.  A key milestone for our medical students, the ceremony marks the formal transition from a predominantly classroom-based education to full immersion into clinical training at our hospital site and in the community.

Prof Murray at WCC2018

The proceedings were led by Dean of Medicine and Head of School, Professor Patrick Murray supported by a selection of our academic and clinical faculty.  Students from the Stage 4 direct entry undergraduate and stage 2 graduate entry medicine took part in the ceremony which was attended by many friends and family.  As part of the ceremony, students are ‘robed’ with white coats by faculty members as an important symbol of their transition into the role of doctor in training. 

In opening the ceremony, Prof Murray noted,

Before addressing your transition to the clinical environment, it is important to recognise that today is equally a recognition of the extensive knowledge of biomedical science that you have mastered to date, under the tutelage of our expert faculty (several of whom are on stage tonight), which puts you in a position to apply this knowledge of the scientific basis of health and disease in the clinical arena. In UCD, we think it is important to mark this transition formally, and this tangible marker of career progression is very much appreciated by students and family members alike.

The School takes this opportunity to remind students of the privilege but also the attendant responsibilities which come with the next stage of their education and training.

The awarding of a white coat is both practical and symbolic; in addition to protection of clothing, the white coat represents the increased professional privileges, but also the responsibilities that accompany this transition. In addition to meeting the expectations for professionalism in your practice, conduct, and ethics, you are also joining a medical community in which it is a doctor’s primary responsibility to be a strong advocate for their patients, above all other considerations (personal and otherwise). 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 latter also mandates development of leadership and teamwork skills, which we will also seek to develop before your graduation and beyond. Finally, it is important that your behaviour in the clinical setting is geared toward protecting patients and optimizing their outcomes, whether it’s by rigorous hand hygiene, up to date vaccination against communicable diseases, or other aspects of evidence-based clinical practice.

 added Professor Murray.

Prof Murray asked for a moment of silence to remember recently deceased classmate, Ms Ruth Potter. 

It is with profound sadness that I remember the untimely passing of your classmate Ruth Potter, in late November of last year. In Limerick at her funeral, I saw first-hand how she was valued as a classmate and friend to many of you. I also know that your presence there in Limerick was a great comfort to her family. Others in the UCD School of Medicine community have suffered recent bereavements of family and friends. For these reasons, we in the School are always conscious that your early clinical exposures may stir up difficult emotions. Please share your burden with us, and we will provide you whatever supports you need.

Prof O'Connell at WCC18

The keynote address was given by Professor Ronan O’Connell, UCD Emeritus Professor of Surgery and consultant colorectal surgeon at St Vincent’s University Hospital.  In his introduction, Prof Murray congratulated Professor O’Connell on being recently elected Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.  Professor O’Connell compared and contrasted his clinical experience with that which awaits our students as they commence their clinical careers.

My generation was fortunate to experience the third Industrial Revolution, the one that introduced digital technology, the internet and mobile computing.  You, on the other hand, as you begin your professional lives, you do so at the birth at the fourth industrial revolution, in which artificial intelligence, robots, nanotechnology, quantum computing and biotechnology will change everything in ways that you cannot even imagine…. So I see your greatest challenge not as lacked of access to knowledge or diagnostic facilities but resource management in an era of personalized and very expensive treatment and the ever-increasing costs of managing chronic disability.

Both Professor O’Connell and Professor Murray recognised the daunting transition ahead of our students and highlighted the peer support available from clinical colleagues.  Prof Murray noted,

To help you in what can be a stressful transition, you will have the guidance of your supervising medical colleagues, in what is truly a clinical apprenticeship. You will find that the consultants, GPs, and house staff you work with are an overwhelmingly bright, hardworking, dedicated group of professional experts who advocate for their patients every day. You will also work in interdisciplinary teams, another change for many, and you will learn to work with groups of equally professional and dedicated colleagues in other health care disciplines, who similarly have much to teach you. Please be assured that in this challenging period, you will have the support of your peers, medical colleagues, and university counsellors.

The white coat is a very symbolic representation of the medical profession. Historically it portrayed the authority of the physician and is generally regarded as a sign of professionalism. It also symbolises the responsibilities that define the practice of medicine, and particularly the responsibility of doctors to put the interests of their patients first. This responsibility is an obligation that commences as a medical student and continues throughout one’s medical career.  In his address, Prof O’Connell took up this theme of professionalism and the patient/doctor relationship.

Always remember your relationship with the patient is a privileged one.  One that depends on the patient's trust in your professionalism.  Professionalism is above all else about respect, dignity and trust.  You respect the patient's dignity and they trust in your knowledge and your care.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our students, their families and friends and all the faculty and staff who participated in the ceremony.  The proceedings were broadcast live on our websteam to enable families of our overseas students witness this key milestone.  A high resolution video recording and a selection of photographs are available on our YouTube and Flickr channels respectively.


Prof Patrick Murray’s Opening Address [180209 - Prof Murray Address at WCC2018]

Prof Ronan O’Connell Keynote Address [180228 - Address by Prof Ronan O'Connell, Clinical Commencement 2018]

Photographs from the UCD Medicine Clinical Commencement ‘White Coat’ Ceremony [here]