120 White Coats
Adam Iddriss dons his first
physician's white coat, which was presented by Rafael
Llinas, associate professor of neurology and a Sabin
College faculty adviser.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS
Rite of passage marks med students' transition into
By Greg Rienzi
Throngs of family and friends filled East Baltimore's
Turner Auditorium on May 27 to witness
an annual rite of passage, the
School of Medicine's White Coat Ceremony.
The symbolic event celebrates first-year medical
students' completion of the basic science
curriculum and their transition into clinical training. The
program notably includes the presentation of
a physician's white coat, with the student's name
embroidered on it, and a stethoscope given by the
Johns Hopkins Medical and Surgical Association.
From its modest beginnings in 1995, the event has
grown in size and stature each year, and the
14th annual White Coat Ceremony featured two new elements:
an afternoon presentation for guests
and the reading of a Profession of Values, an ethical
statement created by the 120 members of the
Class of 2011 (see below).
The White Coat Ceremony was created in 1993 at
Columbia University by Arnold P. Gold, a
teacher and pediatric neurologist there for more than 40
years, and his wife, Sandra, an
internationally acclaimed patient counselor. The Golds
believed that medical students should be given
well-defined guidelines regarding the expectations for and
responsibilities appropriate to the medical
profession prior to their first day of clinical rotations.
Medical schools nationwide have since adopted
This year's ceremony began with one of three musical
performances by members of the
talented class. Nancy Cheng and Edmund Hong performed a
medley for piano and violin that
incorporated a classical interpretation of the disco-era
anthem "I Will Survive." The number,
hauntingly played, drew a standing ovation.
In the opening address, Edward Miller, dean of the
medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins
Medicine, welcomed the large audience and noted both the
magnitude of the occasion and the
responsibility the students were about to assume.
"When you started, you probably were not quite sure
what medical school was going to be like.
But now you take on a new look of responsibility: one where
society looks to you and turns to you for
advice. They will look to you to set an example," Miller
said. "You will also be scrutinized more than
ever before. So, when you are out on the wards, or out in
your social life, people will look at how you
act, how you behave and how you treat others. Whenever you
have the white coat on — and as time goes
on, you don't need the white coat É people will know you're
a doctor — they will expect you to behave as
a physician. I wish you well in that."
A somewhat somber moment followed Miller's address as
Sujay Pathak, a member of the Class
of 2011, took to the stage to perform on guitar and vocals
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow," a song he
dedicated to his mother, Radha, a faculty member who passed
away only a week before the ceremony.
David Nichols, vice dean for education, had earlier in the
evening led those in attendance in a moment
of silence to honor Radha Pathak, a School of Medicine
graduate and instructor in the Department of
The keynote speaker for the 2008 ceremony was Robert
Arceci, a professor in the Department
of Pediatric Oncology and the inspiration for the
Emmy-winning film A Lion in the House, which
examines six years in the life of pediatric cancer patients
and their families. Arceci focused his talk
on the physician-patient relationship, and the students'
"Like Dr. Miller said in his earlier remarks, remember
that you are treating individuals not
diseases," he said. "Keep in mind as you are going on the
wards that a 14-year-old with leukemia is not
a 14-year-old leukemic, and a 30-year-old with sickle cell
disease is not a 30-year-old sickler. If you
haven't already had the wonderful experience, remember that
you will be patients at one point of your
lives, guaranteed. Keep all this in mind."
He also reminded the students just how much education
"First of all, you will learn more about diseases than
you ever thought you could put in your head.
But most of your learning will come from patients and their
families and by sitting with them and
listening to their stories," he said.
For the presentation portion of the ceremony, the
students stepped onstage in single file to
receive their white coats, handed to them by Miller and
then placed on by a faculty member from his
or her advisory college. The students are divided into four
colleges, which are named after notable
figures in Johns Hopkins history: Dan Nathans, Florence
Sabin, Helen Taussig and Vivien Thomas. The
official naming of the colleges, previously known as A, B,
C and D, took place during the 12th annual
White Coat Ceremony.
Following the presentation period, the now
white-coated students turned to face family, friends
and faculty to read their Profession of Values, a statement
that Nichols said is a significant addition
to the ceremony.
"The profession of and adherence to values that
support the individual patient and society as a
whole is the most important thing a physician can do. It is
extremely important that the Class of 2011
had the courage to wrestle with a profession of what they
believe, and to declare it publicly in front
of their parents, family and friends," he said.
The event concluded with a performance by the
Note-A-Chords, the School of Medicine's a
cappella group, that sang Coldplay's hit song "Fix You."
After the performance, the crowd once again
took to its feet to salute the students.
In the closing remarks, Nichols said how impressed he
was by this group of students and this
"Family, friends and faculty, I think you can see why
it is easy to become overwhelmed by the
talent of the Class of 2011," he said.
He then directly addressed the students.
"I don't know if you will be celebrated publicly, or
have colleges named after you, but I do know
that if you stick by the values that you have so eloquently
expressed today, you will be heroes to
someone," Nichols said. "Your values inspire us, and we
congratulate you on your accomplishment.
Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly. Class of 2011,
you are now free to fly."
Dan Hudson said he's honored to wear the coat that
gives him wings.
"It's a big deal," said Hudson, still wearing the coat
at the reception that followed the
ceremony. "I truly believe what the white coat symbolizes.
With wearing the coat comes a lot of
responsibility, and it's nice to now be able to interact
with patients and uphold that."
Earlier that day, guests attended a presentation where
they learned the history of Johns
Hopkins Medicine from Randall Packard, director of the
History of Medicine Department, and about
the school's community values from Robert Shochet, director
of the Colleges Advisory Program. The
afternoon also included student-led tours of the ongoing
construction of The Johns Hopkins Hospital's
two new clinical care towers, the largest and most
expensive hospital project in Maryland history.
Forging a New Tradition
At the suggestion of the Colleges Advisory Program,
the School of Medicine's Class of 2011
created Johns Hopkins' first-ever Profession of Values, a
statement to be read by the class at its
White Coat Ceremony.
Modeled after the Hippocratic oath, which relates to
the ethical practice of medicine, the
document reflects the shared values of the class and how
its members wish to act during their clinical
training as medical students, said Robert Shochet, director
of the Colleges Advisory Program and an
assistant professor in the school's Department of Medicine.
The concept, he said, was inspired by a
similar tradition at Case Western Reserve.
First-year student Sophie Strike coordinated the
effort, which began in January. Students
initially shared their thoughts about what values should be
included and later a 12-member committee
was formed to steer the creation of the statement. Mark
Hughes and Rachel Levine, advisers in the
Colleges Program, assisted the students in their
If the tradition holds, Shochet said, each School of
Medicine class from here on in will be asked
to craft its own Profession of Values.
Profession of Values
We, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Class of 2011, profess to our peers,
educators, families, friends and the community of Baltimore
our aspiration to uphold the values we
attribute to this white coat.
As students of medicine, we will embrace honesty and
integrity. In our roles as scholars,
caregivers and community members, we will passionately
pursue excellence, continually inspired to
contribute to the expanding knowledge of medicine. We will
strive to know ourselves, our abilities and
limits, allowing this insight to guide our actions. As we
face challenges, we will draw on our strength,
optimism and patience. In our successes, we will hold
humility before pride.
We recognize that skill without empathy is inadequate.
We will approach every patient with
open-mindedness and without judgment, respecting cultural
and personal differences. We will honor
the dignity and humanity of each patient. As time passes
and novelties wane, we will not forget
compassion and caring but will remain dedicated to the
ultimate goal of helping others. We will learn
from every person, with new understanding gained from each
We accept our responsibility, one which extends beyond
the walls of our institution, to lead and
serve with dedication. We will be diligent and responsible,
not complacent or timid, and always
respectful of the trust placed in us. As members of the
community, we will not exploit or neglect
those around us but rather will embrace our social
responsibility to advocate for positive change. As
physicians, we will commit to advancing knowledge and
improving practice. As individuals, we will be
mindful of the impact of our decisions and our duty to
This profession of values declared on the 27th of May
2008 is an acknowledgment of our
commitment to the tradition of excellence in clinical care
and scholarship at The Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine.
Class of 2011 Profession of Values Writing Committee:
Sophie Strike (coordinator), Shamik
Bhattacharyya, Ashley Campbell, Nancy Cheng, Matt Crim,
Swathi Eluri, Stephen Juraschek, Allie
Kaeding, Irene Kim, Sujay Pathak, Jeremy Schneider, Nathan
Skelley and Bridget Wild.
GO TO JUNE 9, 2008
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
GO TO THE GAZETTE