The members of the West Virginia University School of Medicine Class of 2018 donned the most significant symbol of their chosen profession – the white coat – for the first time.

On March 19, the School of Medicine held its annual John W. Traubert White Coat Ceremony, during which the 110 students in the class were presented with their white coats.

At WVU, the first White Coat Ceremony was held Jan. 26, 1996. Its tradition differs from the conventional concept in that it honors second-year students and marks the transition from basic sciences to clinical sciences, from reading about illness and disease to diagnosing it, and from learning about treatments to prescribing them. The ceremony stresses the importance of the doctor-patient relationship and the relevance of the white coat as a cloak of compassion.

“This ceremony is an important milestone in the professional development of a physician,” said Norman Ferrari, M.D., vice dean for education and academic affairs and professor in the WVU Department of Medical Education. “It is the first time they will publically recite the Oath of Hippocrates on their journey to becoming a physician and establishing a sacred trust with their patients to provide excellent care in a compassionate manner.”

Featured speaker was School of Medicine alumnus Cathy M. Funk, M.D., owner and manager of Internal Medicine of West Virginia, PLLC, a Martinsburg outpatient and hospital practice that provides comprehensive primary care for adults, integrating preventive, acute, chronic and palliative care. Dr. Funk completed an internal medicine residency at West Virginia University Charleston Campus, where she was Chief Resident in 2002. She has received WVU awards for Rural Health Science Student of the Year, School of Medicine Alumni Association President’s Young Alumnus Award, Charleston Campus Department of Medicine Fifth Player Award, and the Eastern Campus 2010 Clinician of the Year.

WVU president E. Gordon Gee and WVU’s Gold Humanism Honor Society president Kathryn Seachrist also gave remarks.

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation designed the White Coat Ceremony in 1993 to welcome entering medical students and help them to establish a psychological contract for the practice of medicine. The event emphasizes the importance of compassionate care for the patient as well as scientific proficiency. It has since been established at medical schools across the country.

WVU’s ceremony was named for John W. Traubert, M.D., former associate dean for student and curricular affairs at the WVU School of Medicine, who practiced family medicine in Wellsburg before joining the WVU faculty as founding chair of the Department of Family Practice, now the Department of Family Medicine. A reception follows the ceremony.

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