The White Coat Ceremony, established by Dr. Arnold Gold at Columbia University Medical School in 1993, was designed to impress upon students, physicians and the public the important symbolic role of the white coat in patient-doctor interactions. Gold argued that students were reciting the Hippocratic Oath four years too late-upon their graduation from medical school. He felt the oath and the conferring of white coats would be better done at the start of medical school, when students receive their first exposure to clinical medicine. The White Coat Ceremony provides a mechanism by which values that are key to the profession can be openly articulated and carefully considered in the company of peers, parents, partners and faculty. The College of Veterinary Medicine has sincerely embraced the spirit of this exercise since first introduced at Washington State University in 1999 with the class of 2003.
Through their involvement in the meaningful ritual at the beginning of veterinary school, student-veterinarians become more aware of their professional responsibilities. The ceremony impresses upon them the primacy of the veterinarian-patient-client relationship. It encourages them to accept the obligations inherent in the practice of veterinary medicine; to be excellent in science, compassionate, and lead lives of uprightness and honor. It emphasizes for students the veterinarian's responsibility to take care of patients and also to care for patients. The message conveyed is that veterinarians should care as well as cure.