Saturday, August 14, 2004

With white coats, they don mantle of responsibility

By Ari Bloomekatz
Enquirer staff writer

New medical student Douglas Nguyen of Dayton receives his white coat from Dr. Charles Collins, UC's associate dean for minority student affairs, at the annual ceremony at Music Hall. The ceremony wraps up a week of orientation activities.
Almost every doctor wears one, but a white coat is not a uniform.

The coats are a symbol of trust between doctors and their patients, said William Martin, dean of the University of Cincinnati's school of medicine.

Nearly 160 beginning students at the medical school put on the traditional garb Friday afternoon at the university's annual white coat ceremony in Music Hall.

The event concluded the university's week-long orientation that included reminders to treat patients with compassion and humility, something medical professionals are sometimes accused of forgetting, said Laura Wexler, associate dean of student affairs and admissions at UC.

"In an age of increasing technology, it's very important to remind young physicians that the humanistic components of the profession are important as they ever were, perhaps even more so," Wexler said. "Even as student physicians, they must be held to the highest standards of honesty and integrity and altruism. Putting the interest of the patients before their interest."

Amir Nagavi, 21, a UC graduate, said the message of humanity has been stressed throughout the week.

"They say that money should be a last concern. You must be compassionate, you must love what you're doing," Nagavi said, adding that a doctor should not have a factory-line mentality with patients.

Earlier in the week, the students visited Maple Knoll, a nursing home in Springdale, to speak with residents about their experiences with doctors.

"We talked to some of the elderly patients - we basically picked their brain," said Adam Czaikowski, who graduated from the University of Chicago.

Czaikowski said he learned that spending a few extra minutes with patients, not only to put them at ease but to further explain the diagnosis, could really help.

During their first two years, students will take courses and learn basic medical sciences - as well as learn about death and grieving, interviewing skills and other issues important to patients. Students enter hospitals during their third year. In their fourth year, they further concentrate their study in hospital work.

More than 70 percent of this year's freshmen are from Ohio.

Barbara Tobias, associate professor of family medicine, said the white coat ceremony and the trip to the nursing home help stress humility and compassion.

"It's not just a uniform," said Taura Long, 24, a graduate from Xavier University in New Orleans.

"It's a commitment."


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