White Coat Ceremony marks transition into patient care, students embark on clinical phase

Liala Helal | June 15, 2015

More than 100 Northwestern chiropractic students were presented with coats symbolizing responsibility, compassion and an oath to professionalism.

More than 100 chiropractic students received a white coat, marking their entrance to the clinical portion of their education.

The moment where the rubber meets the road was celebrated for more than 100 Northwestern chiropractic students Friday evening.

“I’m excited about this gateway into the clinical portion of my education,” said chiropractic student David Manzella, who led his class in reading the oath of professionalism at the College of Chiropractic White Coat Ceremony. His class is at the point of transition from strictly classroom studies, to moving into clinical experience and internships. “This is a great kickoff for us. It’s humbling, and it makes me motivated to become a better student.”

The White Coat Ceremony signifies students receiving their white doctor coat, which they will wear throughout clinical internships. It started as a ritual in medical, dental, pharmacy, veterinary, and other healthcare professions schools ― the ceremony marks the student’s transition from the study of preclinical to clinical health sciences. Many patients view the white coat as a “cloak of compassion” and a symbol of the care and hope they expect to receive from their doctors.

Families cheered and students smiled as the ceremony not only welcomed students on their journey into the clinical phase of their training, but gave them the powerful symbol of compassion, professionalism, and honor which they took an oath to fulfill to the best of their abilities at the Friday ceremony.

“It’s very surreal,” said chiropractic student Nate Servey, as excitement filled the air.

Northwestern Chiropractic Professor and former Dean of the University’s College of Chiropractic Dr. Renée M. DeVries helped initiate the University’s first White Coat Ceremony in 2012, after students approached her with interest to make it an annual event for the T6 class. It continues as a tradition today. Dr. DeVries describes the event as very touching for both families and faculty to watch students realize they are becoming doctors.

“I can’t think about the event without getting choked up,” she said. “They go from the theory to the practice –from learning about things to applying them to patients. It’s a point of pulling concepts together from the curriculum and connecting the dots, and applying them to patients.”

She added, “Students are so busy in their day-to-day that they don’t stop to think about what the future holds, and nights like tonight let everyone see the bigger picture and get excited about the future.”

It’s an extra special time for faculty, Dr. DeVries said. It’s more meaningful than graduation because it’s the first time they are about to impact patient lives.

“I like to see people achieve their dreams, achieve their goals,” Dr. DeVries said. “That’s so meaningful to me. To watch the students progress from class to clinic means a lot. As faculty, we care so much about the students, and it’s such an honor to be part of that.”

Watching the transition of the sea of students in the auditorium in street clothes, to a sea of white after they’ve received their coats is a visual symbol of the significant change, she said.

‌Dean of the College of Chiropractic Dr. Trevor Foshang said the night is an acknowledgement of the hard work students put in, and a look at the privilege to move from didactic learning to patient care.

“The White Coat Ceremony is designed to signify clearly entering the health care profession. It’s a huge transition,” Dr. Foshang said. “For me, it’s a wonderful time to see our students cross the proverbial gate into patient care ― moving from theory to practice.”

Another big symbol is weaved into the ceremony —the Northwestern alumni board donates the white coats to students.

“I love the symbolism of alumni and doctors in the field reaching back and welcoming their future colleagues, and giving back to their future colleagues,” Dr. DeVries said.

Students write their own oaths each year, and that makes the promise more meaningful, Dr. DeVries said. Chiropractic student Carolyn Weiss wrote the oath which her class recited together after receiving their coats.She said students recognize how excited the Northwestern community is for their future, while also feeling the great responsibility that comes with being a clinician. The coat reminds them of their privilege to treat patients.

The oath begins with a promise to respect the chiropractic field, the past, and the compassion that comes with being a doctor of chiropractic:

I will respect the hard-won scientific and philosophical gains of those chiropractors in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as mine with those who are to follow. I will remember that there is art as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug. I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure. I will keep the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of the sick as my foremost duty, ever searching for and correcting the cause of their disease to the best of my ability…I will not be ashamed to say ‘I know not,’ nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery…I will remember that I do not treat a condition, but a human being…May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

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