The day had finally come. The day that my fellow classmates and I took an oath to medicine, while we received our white coats. The pivotal moment we have all worked so hard for, and all of us have a different story to tell (over 50 countries are represented in the student body of St. George’s University—School of Medicine—Class of 2021). The day that marks the beginning of the rest of our careers as physicians and a promise to our patients. The ceremony symbolizes professionalism, trust, care, and tradition. The white coat itself represents a powerful symbol of compassion and honor. White coat ceremonies are often held for many health care professions as a rite of passage, and I have dreamed of this exciting moment for years.
If I am being honest, this day came with obstacles. My dad got sick the day of my white coat, and we had to work around him and his GI illness, while trying to collaborate picking up tickets for the ceremony. He was the only one of us with a Grenadian driver’s license. Then, I was blow drying my hair with an American hair dryer through a converter, apparently you aren’t supposed to do that. Long story short, I have super thick, curly hair and I ended up being stranded with a huge afro frizzed out, and no way to straighten it. Sorry I didn’t take a picture, trust me, you don’t want to see that. Feeling frustrated, I tried to figure out my next move. Lucky for me, my dad bought a converter I’d be needing anyways (thank you Dad!). After getting my hair straightened, we got locked out of our safe in the resort. That would have been no big deal, except I wanted to wear the bracelet my parents got me for my birthday. So, after conquering the GI illness, the hair fiasco, and unlocking the safe, my parents and I made it to my white coat ceremony with 7 minutes to spare, and as we all know, that’s super early for me.
The speaker at my white coat ceremony, Dr. Tochi Iroku-Malize, MD, MPH, MBA, talked about our expected journey to becoming physicians. It is no coincidence that she focused her topics on learning to deal with the stress and common crisis. As she mentioned her journey to becoming the physician she is today, she told stories about her experiences in dealing with 9/11 and flight issues ten years later. I thought about getting ready today. As I was frustrated about my lion’s mane and complaining to my mom about “not being able to deal with this,” my Mom asked me, “Mace, what are you going to do when your patient dies.” In that moment, I realized how selfish and spoiled I was being. Yes, this was a huge moment in my career, but in the grand scheme of things, did I really need to get so stressed out and upset? No. During my white coat, everything changed. It felt like I was making a promise to society, as well as, to myself. And it encouraged me to work harder.
I could literally feel the excitement of my classmates, and my heart felt like it was going to beat right out of my chest. The best part was watching my classmates walk past me in their white coats and grinning from ear to ear. The moment reminded me how far I’ve come, and what an honor it is to be in the medical field. The room was packed, body to body, as our loved ones witnessed this momentous milestone. I don’t think any of us will ever feel the same after putting on that white coat. I will never forget how I felt walking across that stage. I know this journey will require a great deal of tenacity, and at times I am sure that it will test my endurance. When I lose my excitement, I will think of today. I will remember how I felt, and remind myself why I chose this field in the first place.
To my classmates, thank you for challenging me and for helping me grow in the diverse university. I wish you the best of luck on this long and hard journey.
To my parents, thank you for traveling over 2500 miles to be a part of this special day. Love you guys.
Here’s the video of me getting my white coat. The speaker had all these exotic names to pronounce, but when it came to the four letter name, Macy, she called me Marcy Hudson of Oklahoma, but I am not going to sweat the small things. I still got my moment of glory, as Marcy.