White Coats and a Sacred Oath

Adam-Borecky-header1The White Coat Ceremony occurred on the evening of our first day of orientation. My classmates and I took up the first five rows of the enormous Loma Linda University Church where we fidgeted nervously, forecasting ourselves tripping on our way up to the stage. I can only describe the ceremony itself as strangely sacred. The service was very religious in nature, including music, prayer, benediction, dedication, the donning of the coats, and a liturgical recitation of the Physicians’ Oath.

Eight white-clad physician/professors formed a welcoming line on the stage. One by one, our names were called until eight students stood before eight physicians. Then, as if they could communicate telepathically, our professors simultaneously slipped the coats onto the awaiting shoulders of my classmates.

I was one of the last to be coated so I was able to observe an awe-inspiring transformation occurring in the front of the church. The rows of multicolored jackets and dresses slowly faded, replaced with an emerging sea of white. When my name was finally called, I walked up and took a place in front of Dr. Lui. The warmth and kindness in his gaze was palpable, calming my tense nerves. As soon as I was coated, he shook my hand and whispered a word of congratulations in my ear. Cameras flashed, there was applause, and then it was over.

What is it about the coat that gives this ceremony such a spiritual atmosphere? It’s not like I’m any less ignorant about being a doctor now that I’m wearing a coat with my name on it. We were told that the white coat symbolizes our sacred call as physicians to heal mankind. I recently learned that long ago, physicians actually wore black robes. What images do black robes bring to mind? Death. Puritan ministers. Funerals. Mordor. I don’t think I would enjoy being examined by a dark-robed figure that looked like Voldemort or the grim reaper, but that’s just me.On the other hand, a white coat brings a different set of symbols to mind. Cleanliness. Purity. Angels. Weddings. Babies. Clouds. Little bunnies. Gandalf. All these things are associated with life and renewal.

Consequently, I think that the white coat conveys a psychological expectation of healing to the patient, even before any official care is given. It is one of the many non-verbal, intangible signals a physician gives that creates a sacred bond of trust with the patient. It says: “I can help you; you will get through this!” It’s funny, really, because medicine presents itself as grounded in the fact-based scientific method. And yet, the Physicians’ Oath that we collectively recited at the end of the ceremony reveals an entirely different, spiritual component of medicine that eludes quantification. Led out by our Dean, Dr. Hadley, we spoke the following words as one voice:

Before God these things I do promise:   In the acceptance of my sacred calling, I will dedicate my life to the furtherance of Jesus Christ’s healing and teaching ministry.   I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude which is their due. I will impart to those who follow me the knowledge and experience I have gained.   The wholeness of my patients will be my first consideration. Acting as a good steward of the resources of society and of the talents granted me, I will endeavor to reflect God’s mercy and compassion by caring for the lonely, the poor, the suffering, and those who are dying.   I will maintain the utmost respect for human life. I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity. I will respect the rights and decision of my patients.   I will hold in confidence all secrets committed to my keeping in the practice of my calling.   I will lead my life and practice my art with purity and honor; abstaining from immorality myself, I will not lead others into moral wrongdoing.   May God’s kingdom, His healing power and glory be experienced by those whom I serve and may they be made known in my life, in proportion as I am faithful to this oath.

 

Ice Bucket Challenge

Danny, Second Year Medical Student

If you’ve been anywhere near the internet recently, then you’ve probably heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge. This challenge has been used as a method to raise awareness for a tragic disorder – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named after the famous New York Yankee’s baseball player affected with this disorder. You can learn more about this disorder here.

Recently, I was issued the challenge to donate and get the bucket of ice on my head. So I thought I would do something special to ring in the new school year.

White Coats, Orientation, and Weekends: This Past Week in a Nutshell

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So excited for my first blog post!  First things first: Shout-out to the LLUSM Class of 2018!

LLU SOM Class of 2018

This past week, I’ve been scrambling around trying to get everything in order before school starts.  It seemed as if I had so much to get done, from getting my school ID to grocery shopping… and needless to say, it has been a little crazy.  I know that once classes start, I won’t have much time, so I decided to make the most of the few free days I actually had.  I went to LA for a day with a couple of friends.  We had fun being tourists, taking pictures near the Hollywood sign and experiencing the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

      Hollywood       Hollywood WOF

The following night, I went to the O.C. Fair.  That place is HUGE!  They have tons of vendors, rides, and events.  The vendors sold a variety of foods, from tacos to deep-fried everything! <— Myocardial Infarction in the making!  As far as the events, we caught part of a concert and a rodeo.  Yes, a real live rodeo in which cowboys competed to see who could stay the longest on a bucking bull. That’s just crazy, right?

Anyway, let me fast-forward to last Wednesday night… the LLU Freshman Welcome Picnic.  The LLUSM Alumni Association sponsored this picnic so that we could meet and greet our classmates and some of the upperclassmen.  Though I initially wasn’t too keen on stepping out of my comfort zone and introducing myself to others, it actually ended up being really fun!  I met a few of my classmates, exchanged numbers with some second, third, and fourth years, and received good advice.  I got to learn a little bit about those I would be in class with for the next four years through icebreaker games.  Oh, and the food was pretty good too!  Many faculty members also showed up, including Dr. Hadley, Dr. Roddy, Dr. Lamberton, and a few others.  FYI: In case you did not know, Dr. Hadley, the LLUSM Dean, is the campus selfie king!  (Check out the picture near the bottom.)

Thursday morning, the Class of 2018 gathered in the Coleman Pavilion for the first day of orientation.  We got to hear presentations made by various faculty and several LLU organizations.  There was a lot of information, papers, and pamphlets given, but it just proved, even more, what an exciting and interesting place Loma Linda University is!  We also took our Class Picture and picked up our iPads.  As a new Apple owner, I must confess that I was really excited about our 64GB iPad Airs!  Another favorite was the panel discussion on how to succeed in medical school.  Dr. Lamberton moderated as four upperclassmen gave us newbies advice and techniques that helped them to succeed.

Thursday night was the BIG event… (insert drum roll here)… the White Coat Ceremony!  It was such a blessing to be gathered together with family and friends to commemorate the beginning of our medical journey.  I felt such camaraderie with my classmates and considered it a great honor to be sitting among them.  The speaker was fantastic and genuine, as she welcomed us into the medical school, speaking from her own LLU SOM experience.  Once everyone had received white coats, we stood in front of all in attendance; and as a class, we read the LLU Physician’s Oath.  The phrase that stood out most to me was: “The wholeness of my patient will be my first consideration.”  In one word, becoming a physician is all about SERVICE, which is highlighted in this statement.

Afterwards, we all took pictures (which was fun, but seemed to go on for FOREVER!).  Here are a few of my favorites!

                   

White Coat Selfie with Dr HadleyAfter the ceremony, a group of my closest classmates and our families went out to eat at Olive Garden.  When the servers heard that we had just received our white coats, they brought us out a complimentary cake to celebrate!

    White Coat at Olive Garden        White Coat Olive Garden Cake2

On Saturday, a group of us went to one of the many churches in the area, Mt. Rubidoux SDA.  After church, we attended a potluck hosted by one of the upperclassmen dental students.  It was another great opportunity to eat and fellowship with both old and new faces.

Saturday night, we went out and experienced the wonder that is A La Minute.  If you haven’t tried this place, you have never had real ice cream before!  A La Minute is a little ice cream shop in downtown Redlands.  Fun Fact: All of their ingredients are locally sourced.  After perusing the menu, my friends and I tried the Salted Caramel.  My rating: A+!  Here’s a picture of it below.

                  A La Minute Menu2           A La Minute Salted Caramel2

Well, that’s all folks!  This post is a little longer than I planned, but I had a lot to recap!  Hopefully, you all enjoyed reading it.

Until next time…

VM

 

“What fiyu cyaan bi unfiyu” (old Jamaican saying). Translation: What is meant for you will be yours.

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“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9

When God blessed me with the opportunity to enter medical school, I entered with tunnel vision on becoming either a plastic surgeon or neurosurgeon (my childhood dream after deciding that Little House on the Prairie life probably wouldn’t cut it).  I mean what little child reading Ben Carson’s story doesn’t want to be a surgeon? For years I wrote essays for school about the complexity of the brain because nothing else excited me.  I didn’t want to be open! This is what I had planned to do for God, and this is what I would do.  I planned on being that woman who came into medical school with a plan, and left accomplishing that same plan.  I wanted to be set and have no surprises.

But then there was that little voice. You know the one that tells you to keep your options open although you already have a plan?  While on the short clinical rotations experiences during first and second year, treacherous thoughts came into my head.  Why was I beginning to find the beauty in other fields of medicine? How could this be possible? This was NOT supposed to happen to me:

I was not supposed to melt over the children in the pediatric wing, want to cry over the stories of the kids in the psych ward, or feel helpless beside the old woman with 5 fatal diagnoses.  I wasn’t supposed to have fun while playing “video games” on robotic surgery at the OB/GYN interest meeting.  I wasn’t supposed to laugh with the internal medicine doctor and an old war veteran at the V.A. hospital, or watch with interest in the neurology clinic as a mother with occipital neuralgia received injections.  I was not supposed to feel excited as the physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors talked about their plans to make a fake downtown city to help their PT patients acclimate back into society.

I was not supposed to enjoy talking with the old couple at the ophthalmology clinic about how sight isn’t really appreciated until it’s gone, nor was I supposed to be fascinated as I stared into the eye of a man who had received cataract surgery.  I really was not supposed to be interested as I watched a doctor calm the fears of a teenager braving a long needle into her eyelid to treat a chalazion.

My eyes had been opened. There was no turning back. Could I still become a plastic surgeon or neurosurgeon? Sure! But as painful as it was to come to the conclusion, I was beginning to realize that going down a slightly different path than originally planned does not always alter the outcome. It does not always change the dream.  My dream was ultimately to become a Christian doctor that not only enjoyed what she did, but could also put the passion of her enjoyment into the caring of her patients.

On the bright side, I am just about to finish my first week of third year.  This means that I have a little time to settle in my mind which field is for me.  It is always good to have a plan, and it is even better to be able to stick with that plan. However, sometimes it is the unexpected twists and turns in life that make it fun (at least when we look back on it), that help us to grow, and that help us to become the people we always wanted to be.  In the end with an open mind and willingness to make mistakes, what was always meant for us will be ours.