A white-hot day for Pritzker

Someone needed to check the pulse of each new Pritzker School of Medicine student last Saturday. Although Rockefeller Chapel felt like a sauna, and despite the challenging road of medical school ahead of them, each of the 88 inductees appeared eerily cool and collected. Or maybe it was those clean, white doctor coats they had just received.

Controlled excitement filled the air at the annual white-coat ceremony, formally marking each first-year student’s entry into the profession. The event began at Pritzker 19 years ago and has since become a tradition at nearly every medical school in the country, although at many of those schools, the ceremony marks students’ transition from classes to clinical training. After Funmi Olopade, associate dean for global health and professor of medicine and human genetics, delivered the keynote address, each student was called forward to don the familiar white uniform for the first time.

An otherwise quiet and meticulous ceremony was occasionally enlivened by a nearly botched exchange between the coat’s recipient and the two people presenting it, resulting in a few smiles and sighs from the students as they returned to their seats, straightening out their jackets on the way. But the heat seemed to affect the intimate crowd of family and friends more than the students. The onlookers were proud but uncomfortable: A mother clicked photographs in one hand while fanning herself with the other. A father slowly gravitated toward one of the chapel’s many open doors. A baby impatiently waddled through the pews.

Nevertheless, as the newly clad Pritzker inductees faced the crowd to recite the Hippocratic Oath, it was clear that it would take more than an awkward coat exchange or a muggy Saturday afternoon to sway these students. They looked ready.

Luke Fiedler, ’10

Students participating in the 2008 White Coat Ceremony.

August 11, 2009