Like many medical schools around the country, my school’s “white coat ceremony” for incoming first-year medical students was
cancelled postponed. Personally, I’ve never felt like a very ceremonious person. I mean I like the symbolism and the taking time to acknowledge a significant milestone etc., but it always seemed more like a formality than anything. This is not the end nor the beginning. My life is a process that will continue to the day I die, and this ceremony would have just been another day along that journey. That’s not meant to be a morbid mentality, if anything I feel like for me it stems from an excitement to see what’s up ahead and to discover new things. I do think that transition points like this are important though to reflect and take stock of where I am in my development and to especially appreciate all the people and forces that have made me who I am today, for better or worse.
A big part of the white coat ceremony is the recitation of the Hippocratic Oath, a declaration of commitment by us freshman medical student to our patients and to the practice of medicine. One of the assignments we have been asked to complete in my short time as a medical student was to write our own oaths; to make our own personal commitments that we can look back on as we get slowly broken by the medical education system. Here’s mine:
I love anime, though I realize it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Some think it’s too cheesy or too childish, but if you look past the overdramatic fight sequences and questionable fashion choices, there are a lot of themes and values that resonate deeply in a lot of people, including myself. And while at times it can seem too idealistic, I think we all like to imagine, at least to some extent, a world in which that type of idealism is the reality.
Take for example, Boku no Hero Academia, which is about a school for literal superheroes-in-training (perhaps an apt metaphor for medical school). The school’s motto is “Plus Ultra,” meaning to “Go Beyond”. It’s so simple, but at the same time powerful. It’s a phrase often recalled by the characters when they’ve been pushed to the very edge of their limits, either physically or mentally (though often physically), which allows them to push past their current ability for the sake of those who depend on them. While I don’t expect to be fighting villains within an inch of my life on a regular basis, Plus Ultra for me serves as a brief reminder, which I can keep in the back of my mind, to push past my limitations, and to imagine more for myself and for my patients.
And it’s in that Plus Ultra spirit that I make the following commitments:
To listen more than I speak.
To find something to love about each of my patients.
To prescribe less, and understand more.
To acknowledge that my patients’ trust is sacred.
To find something to learn from each of my patients.
To be an advocate for my patients both in and outside of the clinic.
To remember that my responsibility to my patients is a privilege not a burden.
To remember that knowing how another person’s body works doesn’t mean I know what it’s like to live in it.
To remember that there is so much more to my patients than any acronym can describe.
They have families and careers.
They have laughter and joy.
Fears and anxieties.
To remember that some of the universe’s greatest medicines don’t come in pill form.
I commit to not letting myself become jaded or disillusioned by the challenges which lay ahead.
And to wash my hands with care.
I know I’m not perfect, so should I forget these commitments, I can only hope that my friends, colleagues, and mentors, who are all stronger and smarter than me, steer me back on the right path.