On Oct. 18, the 43 members of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine’s Class of 2023 participated in their White Coat Ceremony, a ritual that began over two-and-half decades ago and that is now performed at most medical school across the country.

“The purpose of the ceremony is to clarify for students that a physician’s responsibility is to both take care of patients and to care for patients,” said Aubrey Knight, senior dean for student affairs at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

While many medical schools have their white coat ceremonies within the first week of studies, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine delays its ceremony until students complete their first block of study.

“It was a goal for our leadership team that this White Coat Ceremony would not merely be a celebratory event or photo-op,” said Lee Learman, dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “We hoped to convey the significance of what wearing a white coat means to our patients and the community.”

There is a special curriculum to prepare them for the ceremony, hearing from senior physicians about what their white coat means to them and then reflecting on it personally with essays, short stories, poems, or even art.

The class also writes a set of guiding principles to help direct them through their studies and into the profession.

“Together, as the Class of 2023, we will remain steadfast to our principles in the hopes of enriching the lives of our peers, colleagues, school, community, and most importantly, our patients,” said class President Sahana Nazeer.

The class and any physicians in attendance recited the Hippocratic Oath in unison prior to the coating process.

“The white coat becomes not only a rite of passage but also a symbol of the profession itself. So, as you have your freshly ironed, pristine white coats placed on your backs, may this not only serve to remind you of this next step in your journey to becoming an M.D. but also as a reminder of our responsibility to the health of our patients,” Knight reminded the class.

After each member of the class received their coat, the audience gave them a standing ovation. Friends, family, faculty, staff, and students celebrated with a reception following the ceremony.

Richard [Dick] and Sarah Waldrop donated to cover the cost of the coats. Both earned their undergraduate degrees from Virginia Tech. Dick was a faculty member of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine for three years before moving out of the area. Sarah volunteered as an interviewer for the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine’s Multiple Mini Interview process while in Roanoke. The Waldrops also donated to cover the cost of the coats for the VTCSOM Class of 2022 last year.