This month I will attend theUniversity of North Carolina(UNC) School of Pharmacy'sWhite Coat Ceremony. The ceremonyhas been adapted from similar eventsat schools of medicine acrossthe country by a growingnumber of schools of pharmacy.These ceremonies varywidely in terms of the timingof the event, the inclusion offamily and friends, and thetone of the ceremony, butthey all signify to those gatheredthat the students arebecoming, at that moment,professionals via an importantrite of passage.
This year's ceremony atUNC has given me a new perspectiveon the event becauseI will be both a faculty memberand a parent. Our event isa relatively solemn one heldon the first evening ofParents'Weekend for third-yearstudents who are goingon professional rotations duringtheir final year. The deanand others make introductoryremarks to explain the purposeof the ceremony and what thisright of passage means. Students arecalled up in groups of 5 and are"cloaked" by 5 faculty members. UNCuses a modified version of the Oath ofGeneva as an oath of professionalism.When I graduated, Dean George Hageradministered an oath to our graduates.I do not remember the oath or thedean's relevant remarks, but I rememberthe lump in my throat when hedelivered it to us.
I asked my son what the ceremonymeant to him, and he respondedinstantly. He likened the event to a paton the back from the faculty and aconfidence booster. He went on to saythat, more importantly, it conveys thesentiment that the student is intellectuallycompetent to begin to be ahealth care provider under supervisionand has made the transition to a professionalwith societal obligations.Finally, it means that all the class workis about to become very real,in that people's lives can beaffected by our (student)actions. Wow! The studentsget it, but do we?
It seems to me that this traditioncould be a powerfulinfluence on students interms of their professionalcommitment, but faculty,professional leaders, and preceptorsneed to be aware ofthe message and to reinforceit as frequently as possible.Does your alma mater have awhite coat ceremony? Haveyou attended one? Is it timeto renew your oath? Do youremind students on yourrotation of their professionalobligations and emphasizethe importance of professionalism?
I know this year I will be"renewing my vow" as Irepeat the oath to myselfwhile the students are taking theiroath, and I will be attending the ceremonyin future years. I will alsoremind students of their importance tosociety as the future of our professionevery chance I get at work. Join me indoing this, won't you?