written by Emily Hayward and Paige Souder

UAB White Coat 2016Newly Initiated MSTPs cheesing hard-core for White Coat

For many, there was a palpable excitement surrounding the ceremony that day, as it was the first moment in which they realized they really were going to become doctors. “White Coat weekend was the glowing point that showed us that we really are in medical school… this isn’t a dream!” MSTP student Andrew Schroeder said. “It was a first-year unforgettable experience that marked our true entrance into the medical career.”

For others, the ceremony was a mixture of excitement and nerves. “I was elated to put on the white coat because it felt like a symbol of everything I had dreamed of and worked hard first-year Emily Hayward said. “Still, I was incredibly nervous. To me, the coat carries so many values with it—empathy, compassion, and knowledge. I felt an incredible, exciting amount of pressure to embody those characteristics as I begin my training.”

Beyond the personal excitement of wearing the white coat, many students felt that the ceremony was a particularly excellent chance to see family. Although the introductory “Patient, Doctor, Society” course began in August, the MSTP students moved to Birmingham in May to begin their first summer laboratory rotation.

“Most of the other medical students had only been away for two weeks, but the MSTP students had been away for two months,” Schroeder explained. “After a time of many changes and amazing experiences, a visit from family was welcome.” 

Due to the recent storms in Baton Rouge and other areas of the country, some family members could not make the trip. Shreya Kashyap was hoping her father would be able to watch her receive her white coat, but the weather prevented his visit. Kashyap explained that the support she felt from her new MSTP family made a real difference to her.

“It’s amazing how much of a community the MSTP really is,” Kashyap said. “Whether it was Corey’s encouraging words, or Emily’s cheering when my name was called, or the fact that Ryan was upset that I didn’t tell him that my father couldn’t make it so that he could come watch me. I didn’t feel alone.”

For Kashyap, her unique white coat ceremony experience really reinforced what she loved most about UAB as an applicant just a few months prior. “The people here make it what it is,” Kashyap said. “The ceremony reinforced the feelings of family and togetherness that drew me to UAB in the first place.” Many students agreed with Kashyap, echoing the ceremony’s ability to capture the essence of what they believe makes UAB special. “White Coat was surreal and made me feel so grateful,” Hayward said. “The speaker embodied the values to which I aspire, and the friendship and family-type atmosphere is exactly what I always dreamed of being surrounded by. I’m grateful to have found such a great group of people to learn and grow with over the coming years.”

With this unforgettable experience under their belts, students plan to remember the true meaning of the coat as they move forward. “White Coat was perfectly scheduled, beautifully planned, and well-executed,” Kashyap said. “It helped me realize that this ceremony, this initiation so to speak, also has to happen within myself. It is important to wear this coat with humility and grace. Getting the coat is one thing—wearing it is another.”