Aug. 15, 2014 - The white coat given to each new University of Colorado medical student Friday represents a professional and personal commitment that can't be shrugged off at the end of a work day, keynote speaker Ann Christine Nyquist, MD, MSPH, said at the 2014 Matriculation Ceremony at Boettcher Commons on the Anschutz Medical Campus.
"The profession you are embarking upon doesn't stop when you leave the hospital or the clinic," Nyquist said. "It becomes a very wonderful, integral part of who you are. That coat that you put on today becomes an invisible white coat that is part of you and part of your substance as a growing, learning physician."
Ann Christine Nyquist, MD
Nyquist, associate dean for Diversity & Inclusion and medical director for Infection Prevention and Control at Children’s Hospital Colorado,
asked students to remember two things at the start of their medical education:
1. It's not about you.
2. Relationships matter.
Nyquist told two anecdotes to underscore her first point.
Nyquist's mother died suddenly on her mother's 55th birthday. At the reception following the funeral, one of Nyquist's aunts collapsed. Nyquist immediately stepped in to help even though "I was in the deepest mourning that I ever felt on a personal level.
"I had that invisible white coat on and my role was to be of service and see how I could help her ... It was so clear to me at that moment that it wasn't about me."
Another lesson happened this year in Peru toward the end of a two-week hiking vacation through the Andes. She was breakfasting at a hotel at the base of Machu Picchu when a tour guide ran in and asked 'Is there a doctor in the room?"
One of his customers was ill. The woman spoke only Chinese, but Nyquist held her hand and stayed with her to try to determine the problem.
"Again, I wore the invisible white coat."
The importance of relationships was an early lesson for Nyquist. When she was 18 years old she met a woman whom she considers her first patient while shadowing physicians in a Michigan hospital.
"I was standing by the residents when they told her that her breast biopsy was
cancer. I sat with her every day in her hospital room when she waited for the
operation to remove her breast. I observed in the operating room when they did remove her breast. I was there for her entire hospital stay, visiting with her, talking with her until she was discharged."
Afterward, the woman invited her to dinner at her home and wrote many notes of gratitude which "I still have to this day. They expressed her gratitude to me for listening and for my presence with her in her time of need.
"I was learning what the white coat meant at that very
early age and how it reflects my professional and personal growth. I was
reminded of the most important human qualities that we need to hold,
which is to listen and to be present."
The matriculation ceremony was the final one for Dean Richard Krugman, who became dean in 1992 and resigned the position to return to faculty when his replacement is chosen. It was the first School of Medicine ceremony with an added group of 24 students who will inaugurate a branch in Colorado Springs when they perform their third- and fourth-year clinical training. Previous matriculating classes included 160 students.
Krugman asked the class of 2018 the same question he's been asking for several years: How many students had been told by community physicians not to go into medical school?
Almost all the students raised their hands.
"The folks who told you that are missing something," the dean said. "Happily, you are not."