The White Coat Ceremony
The White Coat Ceremony, established by Dr. Arnold Gold at Columbia
University Medical School in 1993, was designed to impress upon students,
physicians and the public the important symbolic role of the white coat in
patient-doctor interactions. Gold argued that students were reciting the
Hippocratic Oath four years too late-upon their graduation from medical
school. He felt the oath and the conferring of white coats would be better
done at the start of medical school, when students receive their first
exposure to clinical medicine. The White Coat Ceremony provides a mechanism
by which values that are key to the profession can be openly articulated and
carefully considered in the company of peers, parents, partners and faculty.
The College of Veterinary Medicine has sincerely embraced the spirit of this
exercise since first introduced at Washington State University in 1999 with
the class of 2003.
Through their involvement in the meaningful ritual at the beginning of
veterinary school, student-veterinarians become more aware of their
professional responsibilities. The ceremony impresses upon them the primacy
of the veterinarian-patient-client relationship. It encourages them to
accept the obligations inherent in the practice of veterinary medicine; to
be excellent in science, compassionate, and lead lives of uprightness and
honor. It emphasizes for students the veterinarians responsibility to take
care of patients and also to care for patients. The message conveyed is that
veterinarians should care as well as cure.