The White Coat Ceremony: My Rite of Passage

by Lorien E. Menhennett

Taking anthropology courses in college, I found myself jealous of cultures with rites of passage. Birth, coming of age, and death – along with many landmarks in between – are celebrated with ceremonies that usher the participants into a new era of their lives. Besides weddings, I didn’t see anything like that in my culture. And as a college student desperately seeking her identity, I longed for something that would help me better understand my place in the world. Now 33, I have a much better idea of who I am than when I was 18. And at 33, I realize that these ceremonies are not just for the participants. They are also for the community members who have both helped the participants reach this point, and who will be working with them in the future. It is about both identification and celebration.

With last Tuesday’s White Coat Ceremony, I finally got my rite of passage. Esteemed faculty members helped my classmates and me don our short white jackets, which both identify us as medical students and symbolize the noble aspirations of our newfound profession. In this ceremony, the surreal became real. I am no longer a pre-medical student, I am a medical student, with all the joys and responsibilities that role entails.

Here is a selection of pictures taken at Weill Cornell’s White Coat Ceremony. Thanks to Weill Cornell for providing a photographer to take these, and for posting them for us to see and share. The whole photo album is available here. Photos © Monika Graff/WCMC.