The white coat is a symbolic, non-verbal communication used to express and reaffirm a fundamental belief in a system that society observes. The authority of dress is serious and purposeful, not social, casual or random. The dress of healers of primitive societies was an important part of the paraphernalia of healing. The uniform should imply a purely professional interest. It must convey to even the most anxious a sense of seriousness and purpose that helps provide reassurance and confidence that his/her complaints will be dealt with competently and seriously. It is a cloak of compassion.
On 20 July, 2013, I was cloaked with my very own white coat. While it was shorter than the faculty’s coats to signify my status as a student doctor, it carried a weight that was reiterated by the various speakers leading the ceremony. Yes, the life of a doctor is one dedicated to knowledge and understanding the mechanisms of disease. More prominently however, the life of a doctor is to use this knowledge to heal– be it by administering medicine, performing bodily manipulations, or even by simply listening to them talk about their life. The white coat symbolizes my designation in society as someone who provides service; my job is to take other peoples’ lives, pains, and worries into my hands so that I may do my best to alleviate them. As was mentioned during the ceremony, the white coat gives your the privilege of interacting with others while they are most vulnerable.
In the United States, getting into medicine is tough. Perfect grades will not show that you are smart enough for medical school. Thousands of hours of feeding the poor will not show that you are compassionate enough to see patients. The entire system is designed to weed out those who see medicine as a “job” rather than a lifestyle. Yes, a lot of people might find the previous paragraph a pile of crock… I mean, medicine is just like another professional field right? You spend many years training, carry out your duties, and get paid. I would beg to differ and would point out that it is exactly because of these people why getting into medical school is so difficult. Yes, money is a prominent factor and will undoubtedly let you lead a financially comfortable life, but it is also compensation for the hard work and high risk associated with the job. People who fail to see how sacred the job of a healer is miss the point of why their status in society is respected. A physician deals with life, both at its start and at its finish. There are so many people in this world leading so many different lives a physician both recognizes the story behind each person and also strives to protect their life’s story.
The day itself was a very memorable and fun one. Honestly, I often get bored with graduation and award ceremonies, but this one just felt much more personal– the entire ceremony was telling us that we had chosen a path that we will be traveling for the rest of our lives. I was especially glad that my parents and my younger brother were all able to attend in person to see my class, my school, and my apartment (all of which they had never seen before). The ceremony itself was also streamed online, so I was able to text the URL to a few of my friends (including online friends) in case they wanted to watch me walk across the stage to get cloaked.
As I walked across the stage, I briefly greeted the announcer who remembered me as I had previously invited him to my undergraduate college as a speaker while I was club president. The coat fit just right and flowed in a dignified manner as I took my seat. As soon as I sit down, I feel my phone vibrate and I know who is texting me before I even unlock the phone.
I just saw you. I was so proud and happy! I had to watch a bit at work but I’m so glad to have managed to see you in time. I saw your glorious face! Tears almost started to swell up. Congratulations again, Nightmaren! I hope that this new chapter in your life will be prosperous!
It was my friend Balance, whom I had never even met in real life until the Summer of 2012. He had been watching the video stream and was able to share the moment with my family and me. It should also be noted that my brother did an amazing job as cameraman and took some wonderful photos and videos of the ceremony. All in all, it was a wonderfully memorable day, even moreso when one of my students from when I used to teach Physics happened to be in the audience and came up to me afterwards to somewhat awkwardly say “I… clapped for you~”
At the end of the day, I Skyped with Balance despite being tired out from the busy day. I told him at one point my thoughts on starting medical school on the 22nd of July: “I feel like… I am going on a journey far away.”