White Coat Ceremony

History of the White Coat Ceremony

In 1993, The Arnold P. Gold Foundation founded The White Coat Ceremony at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, where Dr. Arnold Gold has been a teacher and pediatric neurologist for more than forty years.He had noted at the P&S commencement ceremony two years earlier when The Gold Foundation initiated commencement awards for a faculty member and a student who best demonstrate both humanistic care and clinical excellence, that Columbia’s medical students recite the Hippocratic Oath four years too late by first reciting it at commencement. This noble 2,500 year old tradition obligates new doctors to high professional standards for patient care and the practice of medicine.

Dr. Gold believed they should take the Oath when they begin medical school, following the model of Hippocrates who administered an oath to students before their medical studies began. Students should be given well-defined guidelines regarding the expectations and responsibilities appropriate for the medical profession prior to their first day of class as it is during medical school that students experience their initial contacts with patients and establish their professional identity, not after their studies are completed.

This is what inspired the Gold Foundation to begin advocacy and sponsorship of what has become the “White Coat Ceremony”, currently implemented at most medical schools in the United States.

The White Coat Ceremony at P&S occurs during orientation week of the first year. The ceremony and recitation of the Hippocratic Oath mark the entry of each student into the medical profession. For information about this year's ceremony, please visit the Orientation section of the P&S Club website.