VUSM Alumni Reminisce About Their White Coat Ceremonies

July 24, 2017
Posted in White Coat


The white coat ceremony is a particularly important memory for me even though my parents were unable to attend. It was difficult for my mother to travel at the time and my father died suddenly, two years prior from an MI. When I was in college, he bought me a medical-themed necktie for my birthday. In retrospect, it wasn't the most stylish tie but I was so thrilled to get it. It symbolized my journey toward a career I decided on in the seventh grade. I never wore the tie and after his death I knew I wanted to save it for just the right occasion. The only time I wore the tie was when I received my white coat from Dean John Chapman. I put on my white coat with the spirit of my father beside me and I knew he was proud.


My time at Vanderbilt was simply amazing...and hard as hell. There were laughs, marathon study sessions, celebrations, tears, and some sleepless nights. You'll forge lifelong friendships with some of your classmates that same way people in bootcamp form tight relationships. Shared struggles are a catalyst for them. Many moons ago I was a world-class athlete, an Olympic level wrestler to be exact. The journey at Vandy is similar to the jump from college sports to the pros. Everyone is fast and everyone is strong. You will be sharing lectures with people who speak more than 3 or 4 languages fluently. Some of your mates will have photographic memories (which I didn't know was a real thing until I met one of my classmates). There might be world-class musicians and breathtakingly talented artists and photographers sitting next to you. The important thing to remember is that YOU DO BELONG. Admission does not guarantee success, but it signifies you have all of the necessary tools. Push each other to be great. Lean on each other when you have to. The time will pass in an eye blink. One moment you are trying on your white coat, then you are studying for Step 1, then you are setting up residency interviews, then your family is coming to graduation, and then you are moving into a new place, maybe in a new city, and about to start wearing a long white coat on July 1. I will leave you with the words my father told me a thousand times. "Don't forget to stop and smell the roses."

Airron Richardson M.D., MBA
Associate Medical Director | NEA
VUSM Class of 2004


When we sat down with our classmates for the white coat ceremony, I remember Dean Gabbe telling us that for every one of us accepted into the class, there were 50-something other applicants that wanted our spot. It instilled a sense of responsibility and obligation to fulfill the great expectations that Vanderbilt had for every one of us.


We were led in a discussion entitled 'The Good Doctor' about the characteristics of the ideal physician after which we were called up one by one to receive our white coat. Inside was a little card in the pocket, indicating the donor who had sponsored each coat. I think about that little card when I donate to the white coat fund and hope each white coat recipient will appreciate the legacy that comes with it. My parents were able to attend that day, and I know they were immensely proud. Slipping on the white coat for the first time, I truly felt that I was on my way to becoming a physician.

Celeste O. Hemingway, M.D., MHPE
Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology
VUSM Class of 2006

Zimmerman.jpgFor me, putting on a white coat for the first time marked a huge transition. As someone who went directly from high school to college to med school, I’d always considered myself just a student. Getting that first white coat was such a monumental change for me – and now, 11 years later, even more than I realized at the time. It marked such a change – from a self-centered and learner-focused education, to a patient-focused one.

Remember that as soon as you put on your white coat, patients and their families (and maybe even your family!) will see you as a doctor. Keep that in mind as you interact with every single person you encounter in the hospital and in clinic – treat them with kindness and respect.

Eli Zimmerman, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Neurology
VUSM Class of 2010