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March 'Matchness' and the donning of the White Coat

It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that I went through the “match” as a WVU medical student, the process that connected me as graduating medical student to the residency program at Ohio State University where I continued my training in internal medicine.

Others in my class matched in family medicine, obstetrics-gynecology, pediatrics and radiology, as examples.

This time is filled with excitement, nerves and mystery. As a student, you’ve done the research, made your lists and completed countless interviews for residency positions at hospitals around the country.

What if you don’t match into the specialty you wish? What if you end up in an area where you aren’t thrilled to be? Will you be separated from family and friends? What if you don’t match?

It’s one of the most stressful and pivotal moments of a medical student’s professional life. In many ways, this choice starts the defining process of your career and life.

On Friday, I was privileged to participate in the match ceremony with our graduating class of 2016 medical students. The event was filled with cheers, tears, hugs and high-fives! The students’ stress from not knowing was alleviated, but the anxiety and excitement about the next several years kicked in.

Students in the class of 2016 matched coast to coast in 20 different states training 17 different specialties. A third of the class will continue training in West Virginia after graduation, many at training sites affiliated with WVU.

They join more than 4,700 WVU School of Medicine alumni practicing or living around the world. Nearly half the class, 47 percent, will train in internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, or obstetrics/gynecology, fields that typically represent primary care. The most popular fields this year were the specialties of pediatrics, internal medicine and family medicine.

I could not be prouder of each student, and even the ones who are worried that their choice did not match their expectation will quickly find out that different choices are not better or worse, they are only different. It is what each student makes out of the opportunity that is important. I believe that things work out the way they are supposed to and that each new door opens new opportunities.

Our second year medical students also reached a milestone moment in their education this week. They donned the most significant symbol of their chosen profession – the white coat – for the first time on Saturday in front of hundreds of family, friends and supporters.

This white coat, or “cloak of compassion,” symbolizes the purity of the profession and the connection to science that each physician brings to each patient encounter.

At WVU, our first White Coat Ceremony was held in 1996. The Arnold P. Gold Foundation designed this ceremony in 1993 to welcome entering medical students and to help them establish a psychological contract for the practice of medicine. WVU’s ceremony was named for John W. Traubert, M.D., former associate dean for student and curricular affairs.

We celebrate our tradition a little differently by honoring our second year students as they make the transition from basic sciences to clinical sciences, from reading about illness and disease to diagnosing it, and from learning about treatments to prescribing them.

These ceremonies mark my first full year back at WVU and the year has flown by for me, as I know it has for our students, teachers and families. I am so proud to be part of this extraordinary community.

For the class of 2016:

As you go out into the world, spread health, hope, empathy and true caring. You are part of our Mountaineer family.

If you stay in Morgantown or as part of WVU, then you will wear the flying WV on your coat. If you leave us, then I hope you keep the flying WV in your heart and remember that you are always part of the long gold and blue line of those before and after you that are connected by WVU and West Virginia.

Gandhi said, “As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him... We need not wait to see what others do.”

Go change the world for the better.