News » Oriented to Treat Patients

Oriented to Treat Patients

The long white coat that physicians wear is a powerful symbol. For the 88 new GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) residents it symbolizes that fact they are now doctors treating patients. “2014 marks an internship for me as well in my new position as interim dean for graduate medical education,” said Jeffrey Berger, M.D., M.B.A., interim associate dean for graduate medical education (GME) and associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at SMHS, welcoming the new residents, their families, and friends during the long white coat ceremony, June 18. Berger told the residents that he empathizes with their apprehension and trepidation when starting a new role.

“Always do the right thing,” said Berger, addressing the new residents. He also encouraged and challenged them not to be afraid to make it personal by sharing their thoughts and experiences with their patients and most important, treat everyone from the patients to the cleaning staff with respect and dignity. 

Next, Berger took a moment to recognize former associate dean for GME, Nancy Gaba, M.D.’ 93, RESD ’97, FACOG, who led the department from 2008-2014. Berger described Gaba as an innovator who never accepted the status quo. “I can’t think of anyone better suited for this position than Dr. Berger,” said Gaba, who now serves as chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at SMHS. “I’m certain that he will make positive changes within GME because he is one of the most creative and insightful people that I know.”

“This will be the most meaningful year of your medical career,” said keynote speaker Michael Berrigan, M.D.’86, Ph.D., Seymour Alpert Professor of Anesthesiology, chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine and associate professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at SMHS. On the other hand, “It might not be the most fun year of your lives."

The long white coats “you are about to put on for the first time are a meaningful symbol,” explained Berrigan. “It’s an identifier, you are now doctors,” he said. The long white coat also represents credibility and accountability with patients. 

Berrigan reminded the residents that when all is said and done, “it’s just a coat; it’s who’s wearing the white coat that matters most.”

Later in the ceremony, the new residents received their long white coats from their program directors and reaffirmed their Hippocratic Oath.