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The Significance of the White Coat Ceremony

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I just finished my second year at Temple’s School of Dentistry. Right before we begin to see patients in clinic, we have our white coat ceremony. Students, faculty, and loved ones gather to celebrate our achievement thus far. I have never been a fan of graduation-type ceremonies. That is, until I got my white coat.

Incidentally, my mentor gave the keynote speech. Her voice rang out, “Today is a new beginning for you. The next phase of your career. You are the lucky ones. The next two years you will develop your diagnostic and treatment planning skills and the art of dentistry on a live patient in the mouth, with big tongues and chubby cheeks and moving heads, on patients who are coughers, gaggers, and dental phobics, oh my!” At that moment it dawned on me that my journey is now going to intimately involve the lives of the patients that I serve. No longer is it just about me doing well on a typodont in preclinic. No longer is it all about studying until I cannot see straight (I hope). My mentor spoke of responsibility and obligation, the attainment of knowledge, and the aim to benefit all of society. After two years of struggling and fighting to survive, we are now student dentists. We are no longer struggling and fighting for ourselves, we are struggling and fighting for our patients.

 

After the ceremony, I went out to dinner with my family to celebrate. I realized that the people I was sharing a meal with could now be the people that I provide care to. I imagined doing dental work on my mother and how much I would study and work to make sure that I did her no harm and gave her the absolute best care. I would expect nothing but the best of myself with the goal of improving her dental health, overall health, and her life. Of course, I feel this way about by father and sister too, as well as my aunt, uncle, and cousin who were also celebrating with us.

 

After my uncle, the dentist in the family, coated me on stage in front of peers and superiors, I realized that I ought to treat each and every one of my patients as if they were my mother. It shouldn’t be about how many crowns I can get my patients to do, (even if they don’t necessarily need one), or how many patients I can get to do whitening. When I enter clinic it will be tempting to convince patients to do certain procedures that will help me graduate, but I will only do it if the procedure is appropriate. I will do the right thing. I will always work to understand the unique patient in my chair and balance their wants and needs with my skills and knowledge. 

 

 

Happy graduation season to all!