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Posted 31 January 2011

UCD medical students “robed” with their white coats

As they prepare for the clinical element of their training, 240 UCD medical students were “robed” with their white coats by clinical academics at a special ceremony at UCD. 

Speaking at the ceremony, Professor Bill Powderly, Dean of Medicine, reminded the students that their professional obligations begin with their training as doctors.  “The white coat represents the professional code of physicians to put the interests of patients before their own, to be tolerant, compassionate and honest, and to strive to be worthy of the privilege of being a doctor.”

The guest speaker at the ceremony, Dr Louise Ivers, graduated from UCD in 1997.  She is Chief of Mission for Partners in Health in Haiti.  She is also an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an Associate Physician in the Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the US.  Dr Ivers balances her time between management of PIH, direct clinical service and operational research, particularly in the areas of HIV/AIDS, food insecurity and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Speaking at the ceremony, Dr Ivers told students they had reached the stage of their career where they were entering as one half of the most privileged and trusted relationships – that of the doctor and the patient.  “As doctors, we are invited into the most private part of people’s lives, into the most intimate of their concerns and fears and we ask them for their trust and their confidence.

What becomes very routine for us may be a once in a lifetime event for our patients.  Our responsibility as physicians includes not just coming to the right diagnosis and treatment but in recognising that our patient has opened up to us in a vulnerable way and we must be respectful of that.

Speaking of her work in Haiti, Dr Ivers said: “Haiti has a proud and important history.  It was the first black nation born of a slave revolution against the strongest powers of its day.  Long before the earthquake of January 2010, my team in Partners in Health has been challenged to try to provide healthcare in a place that remains burdened by destitute poverty.  80% of a population of almost 10 million lives in poverty.  With my colleagues across 15 hospitals serving a population of almost 1.2 million people, our activities acknowledge the impact of poor water, lack of education, poor housing and health, and we seek to address these issues.”

Inspired by Professor Colm O’Herlihy during her studies at UCD, Dr Ivers told the students that whether in Ireland, Malaysia or Haiti, she and her colleagues constantly address the “why”.  “Asking the question: why does this patient have this disease at this time? – gets you not just into the nuance of the medical problem but beyond the disease in front of you into the whole life of the patient and to the factors that contribute to their illness.  You are then in a position to look beyond the first order of the illness and therefore to help.”

Her parting advice to the students: “Choose a path that will lead you to be the compassionate, mindful and caring physicians of the future.”

Of the 240 students robed, 80 will now be returning to Penang Medical College in Malaysia, where they will complete their clinical training.

The remainder will continue their education at UCD through the university’s six major Dublin teaching hospitals, the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, St. Vincent's University Hospital, the National Maternity Hospital, the Coombe Women's Hospital, Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children and the Children's University Hospital at Temple Street.  Clinical training is also provided at a number of other affiliated hospitals and health care facilities around the country, including Midlands Regional Hospital - Tullamore, Wexford General Hospital, St. Columcille's Hospital Loughlinstown, the National Rehabilitation Hospital, St Mary’s Hospital, Royal Hospital Donnybrook, and Mount Carmel. UCD also has an extensive primary care clinical training network for students.

(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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UCD medical students “robed” with their white coats
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