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Unlike some academic events that encompass centuries of tradition, the White Coat Ceremony was initiated by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation on August 20, 1993, at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, where Dr. Arnold Gold has been a teacher and pediatric neurologist for more than 40 years. A White Coat Ceremony or similar rite of passage now takes place at nearly all U.S. medical schools, as well as at osteopathic schools of medicine and schools in several other countries.
The event emphasizes the importance of both scientific excellence and compassionate care for the patient. The cloaking with the white coat—the mantle of the medical profession—is a hands-on experience that underscores the bonding process. The white coat is placed on each student’s shoulders by individuals who represent the value system of the school and the new profession the students are about to enter.
At UMass Medical School, incoming School of Medicine students are presented with their white coats by the student’s Learning Community mentor and an individual significant in the student’s personal and/or professional development, chosen by the student.