A doctor’s white coat is the symbol of the medical profession: the trust, the training, and the responsibility to humanity. On Sunday, January 15, 2012, a small group of Haitian medical students at Quisqueya University in Petion-Ville participated in a Humanism and Medicine Ceremony (also known as the White Coat Ceremony), the first ever of its kind held in Haiti. The students took the Hippocratic Oath and received their first white coats. The HME Project was honored to work with the Gold Foundation for Humanism in Medicine to make the ceremony happen. HME’s Clinical Director Dr. Steve Lenger was there, and has this remembrance:
I was delighted to travel to Haiti last week with HME’s Medical Education Director, Dr. Galit Sacajiu, to attend the first-ever White Coat Ceremony in that country. Over 200 people crowded into an auditorium to witness the ceremony, as about 30 medical students took the oath and put on their new white coats.
The evening was hosted by Dr. Genevieve Poitevien, Dean of Quisqueya University’s Faculty of Health Sciences, and speakers included Quisqueya faculty members Jacky Lumarque and student representative Dr. Lorthe Blema and our own Dr. Sacajiu, along with former Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis. We were honored to have as keynote speaker Dr. William Pape, founder and director of GHESKIO in Port-au-Prince and Professor of Medicine at Cornell University in New York. Dr. Pape and his team have been credited with slowing the spread of AIDS/HIV in Haiti and improving public health immeasurably. You can read his remarks in French here. (English translation here.) The entire event was accompanied by music from a Port-au-Prince-based orchestra, and we all celebrated at a reception afterward.
I couldn’t help thinking of my own White Coat Ceremony as a medical student, and remembering the excitement and pride I felt in becoming a member of the medical profession. It was apparent that the ceremony was deeply meaningful to all who participated. We are grateful to the Gold Foundation for their support, and to all of our partners who helped to bring about this event.