Why the White Coat?

Why the White Coat?
By: Antonio Chirumbolo SUNY 2013 

On Thursday May 19th, 2011, SUNY College of Optometry conducted a white coat ceremony for the Class of 2013. Students received white coats, recited an oath and were given valuable words of wisdom from faculty and staff. So what is the purpose of the white coat? Why is the donning of the white coat so important in Optometry and many health professions alike?

A white coat is symbolic, an indication of healing, professionalism, and has been for countless years in history. Patients surrender to this insignia, take pride and belief in your abilities to serve as a healer, their healer. The white coat is an indication of mastery, of expertise. It is for this reason patients come to see you, because you know better than anyone else the remedy to their problems. A health care professional can confront the same patient, first in the absence and then in the presence of a white coat, and it is without doubt, the immediate impression of that same individual from the patient’s perspective changes. Suddenly within that patient there is trust, a transition in perception, a change in expectations.

Wearing a white coat is a privilege, an honor, but with it comes responsibility. The patient sitting in your chair immediately becomes your primary concern, above all else, including yourself. You are responsible for the well-being of your patient and you must ensure your patient receives the best quality of care you can provide. As we interns prepare now to wear these white coats, and begin providing care to patients, we must keep these new duties in mind.

The white coat ceremony was therefore a catalyst in the metamorphosis from student to intern. As interns, we must now embrace the pride that encompasses these white coats as well as the responsibilities embedded within them.

Good luck Class of 2013.

-Antonio Chirumbolo

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