Growing into the White Coat: Reflections on the First Few Months of Med School

uvmmedicine blogger Ashley Deeb '18
uvmmedicine blogger Ashley Deeb ’18

After the second Human Structure and Function exam, I drove home for Thanksgiving break and was able to admire the winter scenery and reflect on my first year so far at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. Many of my classmates and I started in August with mixed feelings. We were excited for the next chapter in our lives to begin, but we were also fearful of the challenges ahead. I was unsure whether or not I would be able to manage all of the information taught to us and I certainly didn’t feel like a medical student. I remember standing in line during orientation to have my photo taken and putting on a white coat that was far too large. When I see that photo, I’m reminded of the times during my childhood where I would put on my mother’s white coat or use her stethoscope. I felt like a kid playing dress up, like I would never be able to fill that white coat.

A few weeks ago, we finally had the opportunity to receive our own white coats. Even though this one fit me better than the other coat I had worn during orientation, it was still hard to process that this coat was for me. I often see the upperclassmen walking to the hospital in their white coats and the fact that my classmates and I will be doing that soon is unbelievable.

Over the couple months we have been in medical school, I have noticed some changes and how far my classmates and I have come. Looking back on the material we needed to learn for Foundations of Medicine, and Human Structure and Function, it’s hard to imagine that we organized and learned a seemingly insurmountable amount of information. With the start of Human Structure and Function came anatomy and histology labs. I remember standing at the table during our first anatomy lab feeling like someone had just asked me to perform neurosurgery: I had no idea what I was doing. As the week went on, however, I slowly began to get a better grasp of the techniques in lab. As a class, we’ve completed increasingly difficult dissections, some of which I thought we would never be able to complete on time. Each day, I’m amazed at the things we’re learning and understanding. If someone had told me in college that one day I’d be at this point, I would have been doubtful.

Like the seasons, we are changing. There are certainly times where I believe that the point when I become a physician is too far away and almost unobtainable. However, this change (much like the seasonal changes) will happen gradually. If you don’t stop to appreciate the small things, you may miss them. Some may change faster or slower than others, but in the end, we will all grow into the role of physician.

What are your thoughts about this topic?