Meridian Press - ICOM student doctors receive white coats as welcome to medical profession

BOISE — For more than 100 years, the white coat has been a symbol of the physician.

Student doctors attending the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine took their first steps into the medical profession Friday during the White Coat Ceremony at the Boise Centre East.

During the event, the 162 student doctors in ICOM’s second class were cloaked with their first white coats, marking another step in their journey to become a physician.

“Placing the white coat on their shoulders is a way of welcoming them to our family, but also to the medical profession,” said Dr. Thomas Mohr, incoming dean and chief academic officer of ICOM.

Mohr is taking over for Dr. Robert Hasty, who left the position to serve as the founding dean and chief academic officer for the Kansas Health Science Center. Mohr’s first day at ICOM is Oct. 21.

The white coat ceremony is a common practice among medical schools. ICOM held its first white coat ceremony last year, shortly after opening its doors. ICOM, Idaho’s first medical school, opened in 2018 with a goal of addressing the physician shortage in Idaho and surrounding states. Its first class of students will graduate in 2022.

Students at ICOM will receive a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree, or D.O. — one of the two avenues of becoming a doctor. Another is a Doctor of Medicine degree, or M.D. Both groups are licensed physicians with similar training and practices, though their philosophies vary.

The students will wear their white coats during their clinical rotations in their third and fourth year in medical school. When they graduate, they will be given a longer white coat for their residencies, said Stephanie Dillon, spokeswoman for ICOM.

During the ceremony, Dr. David Pate, president and CEO of St. Luke’s Health System, told the soon-to-be-cloaked students to maintain their humanity and never forget the importance of empathy, touch and being humble.

“I know you will be busy; I know you will have many things to do,” Pate said to the room of student-doctors and their families and friends. “It takes time to listen to families and you may not feel like it, but I encourage you to be humble and listen to them. They may just point you in the right direction.”

The physician’s white coat has been part of the profession since the 19th century. The concept originated from the operating room’s white coat, and has served as a visual symbol of the profession that stands for the need to balance excellence in science with compassionate caring for the patient.Though this is the first medical school in Idaho, the state has a longstanding partnership with WWAMI to train doctors.