Celebrating Match Day!

Yesterday was Match Day.  At noon EST, just over 17,000 4th year medical students simultaneously found out where they will go for their residency training this July.

hanging the sign

Medical training is punctuated by ceremonies like convocation, the White Coat ceremony, the donor ceremony (to acknowledge the “silent professors” in anatomy) and graduation.  But of all the ceremonies, the one that is pure joy is Match Day.

envelopes

I truly believe that any physician disillusioned with their work, or even suffering from burnout should be “prescribed” attending a White Coat ceremony, donor ceremony and/or Match Day.  I’m serious!  These moments of ceremony allow us to remember the reasons we choose the profession of medicine and the joy of practice. If you are part of a medical school faculty, make a point to attend one or all of these ceremonies next year.  I promise, it won’t feel like an obligation, it will feel like a gift.  If you are not in a medical school, contact the Dean of Student Affairs at your alma mater or a school close to you – we’ll help make it happen.

During the five long days of waiting between Monday, when they find out that they matched and Friday, when they open the envelope to find out where they are actually going, many fourth year students often wish this process would be replaced with an email notification…. until they experience the celebration of Match Day…

 

Congratulations to all medical students graduating this year –  and to your families, friends, and professors!

 

Photos and video from Baylor College of Medicine

 

 

 

 

White Coat Ceremony – “Thoughts from the White Coat Pocket”

The White Coat Ceremony marks the beginning of the journey into medicine for first year medical students.  In addition to the moment when second year students put the white coats on their new colleague, this night is also used to recognize role models. This year’s Ben and Margaret Love Foundation Bobby Alford Award for Academic Clinical Professionalism, given to the faculty who best demonstrated exemplary professionalism was awarded to Dr. Cynthia Peacock.  We also ask both students and faculty to address the new class.  The following is the speech given by Jenny Walsh, a 4th year student, to her new colleagues and their families.

White-Coat

My dear new fellow students, I welcome you as friends and colleagues.  Welcome to Baylor College of Medicine.  Family and friends, welcome.  Thank you for the essential support you give.   Welcome to the fastest, most amazing, most enlightening, most discouraging, most invigorating, most exhausting, and most challenging years of your life so far.  Welcome to a profession that hears and keeps the most intimate secrets, understands parts of the human body and human experience that most people will never know, and advises on some of the most profound decisions that people will ever make.

We mark the beginning of this life-altering process with a ceremony, as a symbol to you that today everything changes.  Today, jump in to this new life and learn to apply the mountains of seemingly arcane bits of knowledge you will be given.  Dr. Kretzer will tell you about a tiny protein hanging on the outside of a platelet.  It will look like an insignificant squiggle, but a mother’s body can create antibodies to this protein that can destroy her unborn child’s platelets, possibly leading to hemorrhage, devastating disability, or even death.  That squiggle matters to somebody, as do thousands of other details that will bombard you.  Learn them for your patients.

Most of the changes you will make in the next four years will be imperceptible to you.  You will wonder how you can possibly go to clinics as the MS2 neophyte that you are, until you talk to someone who somehow does not understand how vaccines work or what asthma is, how dialysis works, or why they don’t need antibiotics for a viral infection, and you will see that you have grown and that you already have something to offer.  Then you’ll meet a patient who can recite the minutest details about Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, and you will recognize you still have much to learn.

To family and friends, you have front row seats to the remarkable journey your loved one is taking.  You may remember them learning how to talk and walk.  Today, they are medical toddlers, learning thousands of new words, and how to walk in doctor shoes.  Toddler years are tough.  If they fall down, help them get back up.  If they scream and cry—it’s probably because they feel tired and very small.  Love them.  They will make it, especially with your support.

Right now, it feels like dress up, with a grown up Fischer-Price doctor kit—the crisp white coat, shiny new stethoscope, otoscope, reflex hammer, and a badge on a retractable badge clip.  Wait until Thanksgiving dinner, when they regale you with stories of their cadaver.  Or wait until third year when they’re quiet at gatherings, though they may mention during dessert that they performed much of a vasectomy.  Don’t worry.  It’s just a phase.  A lot of their new experiences will have significant portions protected by HIPAA or will be inappropriate for mixed company especially while people are eating.  They may be out of practice talking at all, as they’ve been studying 12 hours a day for a board exam.

As you watch this process unfold, remember that your amazing student is now in a top tiered medical school, surrounded by equally amazing peers, facing a demanding curriculum.  They belong here, but they may feel for possibly the first time in their life that they are not good enough.  I assure you, they are good enough.  Please reassure them in those inevitable dark moments of self-doubt that they are feeling how everyone else feels.  It’s ok to feel intimidated, but they are here because all of us believe that they will make fantastic doctors.

Now my dear fellow students, we give you a white coat as a passport, a mantle of responsibility, a signal to the world that you are here to learn and to serve.  You may just be walking through a hospital, but someone will ask you where out-patient imaging is.  On your first day in the ER, someone will tell you their drug history or that they have HIV simply because you asked.  You may have never seen childbirth before, but someone will not only let you watch, they will let you catch their baby.  During your first  surgery, you may get to drive the camera in someone’s abdomen, or help stitch up the skin afterward.  You may be the one who finally explains to a diabetic patient how uncontrolled blood sugar will harm their eyes, their nerves, and their blood vessels, and make it harder for their wounds to heal.  You will be admitted to bedsides when patients are their most vulnerable.  Your kind words, your gentle touch, your observations, your willingness to listen, your thoughtful questions, and your growing knowledge can make a difference to a patient, even as a student.  Because of this access, which comes from the medical student role in which you are now entrusted, learn all you can.  Deserve this trust.  You can do it.  We will help.  Thank you.

Thoughts From the White Coat Pocket – Part 2

Last week was the White Coat Ceremony at Baylor College of Medicine.  As part of the ceremony, several upper classmen are asked to address the entering class, speeches that we call “Thoughts from the White Coat Pocket”.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Dear colleagues, let me introduce to you: your first white coat. Brand new, tailored for your size, just came out the plastic bag – it is a pretty cool object to own.  Let me assure you it is far more than that.  This inanimate, fairly non-complex thing will soon become an integral part of you. It will determine greatly how you see the world and how the world sees you, even when you are not actually wearing the white coat.

First of all it is a symbol. It is a symbol of relying on scientific evidence for patient treatment, symbol of honesty and respect, symbol of healing, of trust, of being non-judgmental and accepting. Whatever specialty you choose, everyday you will be dealing with people. Many of those who will come to seek your help will do it on the worst days of their lives. Yes, they will be angry, upset, confused, tearful and cranky and from this day on, you no longer get to turn and walk away or let them figure it out on their own. They will be there to see you, not you as a person, but as someone who wears the white coat, thus capable of making things better…

Because you white coat is also a shining armor that was strengthened by the reputation and effort of multiple generations. This armor will make you stronger than disease, often, but not always stronger than death.  You can hide your fear behind the white coat, it is ok. You’ll learn how to ask uncomfortable questions and how to deliver terrifying news. And you will have many opportunities to be scared: your first day of rotations, your first delivery, the first: “Doctor, what do you want to do?” from a nurse. And, believe me, you will hear these words much earlier than you expect…

And, of course, the white coat is a magic cape. It makes hearts beat faster, it suddenly makes it ok for people to discuss most personal things with you, they will believe in your superpowers, because I don’t know how otherwise explain the call from my former co-worker with a request to cure his dog’s arthritis.

Some may say that this white coat is short, because our knowledge is not so impressive yet. Perhaps, but I view it as foundation. We have not build a house yet, but the moment this white coat touches your shoulders – you’ve started. And when you see your first patient at your preceptors office, remember that although you don’t have the letters MD after your name yet, you, just like, your preceptor, have an obligation to be respectful, empathic and knowledgeable.

So, do you feel those butterflies in the stomach? It is a great feeling, so hold on to it. It is similar to falling in love. You are starting a relationship that is going to last a life time. It is going to have ups and downs, routine, exasperation    and fatigue, but stay determined and work for it. Stay motivated, true and inspired. You are in one of the most exciting professional fields. And I know you have dreamt about it for a very long time. Today, finally, it is official. Congratulations!

Katya Jordan, MS3

Thoughts From the White Coat Pocket

Last week was the White Coat Ceremony at Baylor College of Medicine.  As part of the ceremony, several upper classmen are asked to address the entering class, speeches that we call “Thoughts from the White Coat Pocket”.

When I think back about my white coat ceremony 4 years ago, I remember being really worried about what outfit I was going to wear that day. I went through every tie and shirt combination at least 10 times. Eventually I just decided this occasion was too big of a deal and went out and bought a brand new outfit…which I never wore again. I must have taken a million pictures in it…I mean I needed just the right lighting, a smile that said “I’m a professional young doctor with a great bedside manner but could also be an extra on a daytime soap opera,” and if I cropped the picture just right you couldn’t even tell it was a short white coat. Admittedly, it was my Facebook picture for almost a year, marking the beginning of a great journey. Little did I know that both the pristine, little white coat and I would never be the same.

See the funny thing about the white coat is that it changes just as much as you do during medical school. I remember the first day of preceptor for PPS1. I was so proud to wear it. To my shock and horror, that same day a 15 year old boy with a bad stomach bug would defile my coat. I scrubbed it, took it to the dry cleaners, and yes even sent it to my mother. The coat was clean, but something felt different about it…the coat had changed…I had changed. It no longer represented the promise of clinics. It had seen it’s first battle with disease and survived, and a part of me was proud of that.

My little white coat would not see battle again until my second year during my first day of clinics. I woke up that morning and had my best friend take once again a million pictures for Facebook. It was that year that the coat and I transformed again. It was no longer a symbol but rather a tool that I could not live without. During my internal medicine rotation, it held my books, my stethoscope, my penlight, and my history and physicals as I anxiously waited to present. During surgery it held my trauma sheers, bandages, and my granola bar to get me through heart transplants. During psych, it distinguished me from the patients so they didn’t put me away! I couldn’t live without it and a part of me didn’t want to think of a world where I didn’t have 4 massive pockets. True story – I once put a Venti iced coffee in the pocket of my white coat and walked from BCM to Ben Taub with no spillage….these coats are indestructible!

Then something happened this year. I started my sub-intern month on the brink of being an MS4 and decided to leave my coat in the team room. These were MY patients, I was the acting intern and I needed to go into battle without my security blanket. The white coat and I grew apart…and I started needing it less and less. This trend continued as I began my fourth year and started taking more responsibility for my patients. Suddenly the coat felt too small, it could hold my stethoscope and my books, but it could not hold all the responsibilities I was going to face next year.

I will always be grateful to my short white coat. This is a very important day for all of you, take care of your coats and remember what they stand for. When you wear them you are representing BCM and all the generations of amazing physicians this school has produced. And when you get to your fourth year and feel those pockets getting heavier, when your coat feels small and you are ready to take on the challenges and joys of being a first year doctor…that’s when you know you are ready for the long coat.

Welcome to the family BCM class of 2015 and Congratulations!

Tony Pastor, MS4