White Coat Ceremony Marks Milestone for Aspiring Doctors
Future doctors from the University of Hong Kong’s Medical Faculty (HKUMed) gathered on Sunday for their White Coat Ceremony, marking a rite of passage in their journey to becoming medical professionals.
A sense of excitement spread among the 300 Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) first-year students as they joined the event at the University of Hong Kong’s Grand Hall.
The ceremony opened with HKUMed teachers dressed in their white coats processing into the hall followed by students carrying their neatly pressed white coats over their arms.
The event was the first White Coat Ceremony officiated by the new Dean of Medicine, Professor CS Lau, who stepped into the role in August.
Professor Lau opened by explaining that doctors adopted the white coats in the late 1800s as medical advancements revolutionised medicine into a profession based on science, not “bogus cures”.
“This morning, as you don your white coat, I want you to reflect on the reasons you chose to be a doctor and what that means. Your new job brief is taking care of patients,” he said. “Your white coat signifies your entry to healthcare practice in medicine. It also symbolises your unwavering commitment to future patients — something we call professionalism.”
Professor Lau told students that the public nature of the ceremony was designed to remind them of their duty to one another and their colleagues.
“I do not just mean those around you but also those of us on this stage; in not just the next six years but beyond,” he said. “Let me remind you that this respect and comradeship is mutual as we, your teachers, have also sworn the same Declaration many years ago. We will make sure that you are supported throughout your time with us.”
Lam Pui Yin, a year one MBBS student, said the ceremony was an important step to becoming a doctor.
“This gives us a sense of identity, of what we’re about to be doing in entering this profession,” he said. “There’s a tradition in this ceremony and I think that it’s going to be quite an unforgettable experience.”
“I think after today we will truly understand what our mission is to be in the future” he added.
The first-year students also expressed relief that their hours of studying for public exams had allowed them to fulfil their dreams to study medicine.
“It feels good to know all the hard work during high school paid off and you’re able to become a medical student. I’m grateful, happy and glad to be here,” said Samuel Wong, year one MBBS.
“Everything we’ve done so far has been leading to this point, so it’s definitely a milestone, but also a new beginning,” he added.
Parents and guardians were invited to share the momentous occasion and to witness their children recite the Declaration of Geneva. They were joined by 18 principals or representatives from secondary schools across Hong Kong whose graduates are now first-year MBBS students.
Following the portion of the ceremony where students donned their white coats, Professor Gilberto Leung, Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning), explained why medical students recite the Declaration of Geneva.
“By making this promise you are essentially forming a social contract with the patients that you will treat,” he said. “In return, the patient will agree to surrender based on their trust in you some of their rights in exchange for the medical care that you will provide them.”
The declaration is built on the principles of the Hippocratic Oath and was designed to be its modern replacement, Professor Leung said, as he elaborated on aspects of the declaration.
Professor Lau then led students to recite the declaration.
The declaration begins: “At the time of being admitted as a member of the medical profession: I solemnly pledge to dedicate my life to the service of humanity; the health and well-being of my patient will be my first consideration; I will respect the autonomy and dignity of my patient.”
Rudaba Rubaiyath, year one MBBS, said she had taken time to digest the Declaration of Geneva before the ceremony, which allowed her to reflect on the responsibilities ahead.
“It feels like a huge commitment, there are parts that say I will take care of myself [in order to provide care],” she said. “The Declaration of Geneva talks about the values doctors need to have to be good at their jobs — humility, integrity, compassion.”