Have you ever noticed how certain physical objects in life have an almost automatic association with some sort of event, person, or memory? Pumpkin spice latte = fall. Colored hard-boiled eggs = Easter. Mailboxes = a certain dog that had to pee on every single one while on a walk. It goes without saying some of those associations are pretty ubiquitous while others are a bit more personal. This blog would be about an object of the former category — a white coat.
As a proudly born and raised Midwesterner, I can certainly say I’ve worn my fair share of coats. Coats that were crucial to survival during those 8-month long winters (yea, that’s only kind of a joke) where you find yourself repeatedly asking yourself if it’s actually worth it to leave the house. Of all those coats, I can promise you none of them were white — probably due to practicality more than anything (I’m not exactly known for my ability to keep anything clean).
Of course I’m not actually talking about winter coats, but instead a coat that has been used in and associated with the the profession of medicine for 100+ years. A piece of clothing that has found itself so intertwined in association that it has a syndrome named after it. No seriously, white coat syndrome (or white coat hypertension) is a phenomenon where patients exhibit a higher than normal blood pressure in clinical settings. When you think about it, such a connection is actually pretty remarkable.
When you see a person wearing a white coat, they’re instantaneously brought to a different level. Even never having met them, you likely have thoughts about who they are, what they’re like, or their relative level of authority or importance. Maybe those thoughts are positive ones, or maybe they’re not — I guess it all depends.
Regardless, that white coat sure seems to hold a lot of power. To think something as seemingly insignificant as putting your arms through two sleeves and shrugging the stiff and boxy shoulders into place could change a stranger’s perception of you at such a surreal rate seems illogical. Yet it happens, each and every day, over and over again.
It’s powerful and borderline magical. It brings with it potential and has pockets brimming with responsibility. Ironically, it sure seems to carry a lot more weight than it actually weighs.
On Friday I received my white coat at a beautiful ceremony with my fellow M1 classmates, various faculty, and my parents proudly watching. It’s even embroidered with my name and everything which hopefully helps to remind me that it IS actually mine. I was pulling clothes out of my closet to go to church this morning and I had to do a double take when I saw it hanging there, so unobtrusive and yet starkly present now as a part of my every day life.
You know those things you think about, you plan for, you dream of, you work and work some more and then keep working a little bit harder to reach? That’s what Friday was for me. Then again, looking at that sentence I realize that Friday was simply the official kick-off. The official “Here you are Sam, celebrate today because you made it to the starting line. Now get it in gear; it’s a good thing you like long distance races.” Continue reading