• Welcome: Julie Freischlag, MD, FACS, FRCSEd (Hon), DFSVS
  • Introduction of Speaker: Marcia Wofford, MD
  • Address to Students: Ivory Shelton, MD ’20
  • Introduction of the Coat: Brenda Latham-Sadler, MD ’82
  • Presentation of Coats: Students presented by Personal & Professional Development groups
  • Creed for a Student of Medicine: Stanley Tennant, MD ’78
  • Closing: David Kram, MD 

Goodness Over Perfection

The White Coat Ceremony is an important milestone in the journey of a medical student. On the surface, it means you’ve already several milestones. You have taken the prerequisites, garnered the GPA and proven yourself worthy among your peers during the application process. However, this ceremony is less about personal achievement and more about the responsibility and the privilege you will have to serve others through medicine. 

Nathan Hsieh Wake Forest School of Medicine

Consider this reflection from Nathan Hsieh, MS (Class of 2021):
In his novel, “East of Eden,” John Steinbeck writes: “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” I read East of Eden in the middle of my clinical year and felt this line jump out at me,as if Steinbeck were speaking to me about my medical school experience. To me, medical school had been the source of some of the most unique and inspiring events of my life thus far – from exploring a human body in anatomy lab to witnessing the birth of new life on my OB rotation – but these experiences had also been shrouded by the feelings of self-doubt, comparison and pressure to perform that most medical students inevitably come across.  Especially during third year, I had let the stress of appearing “perfect” on the wards take away from some of the beautiful and profoundly human moments that come with being a physician. It was Steinbeck’s words that sparked a shift in my priority from perfection to goodness – goodness toward my patients, my colleagues and myself. And though I need constant reminders that imperfection is OK, I fall back on the goodness of others and the reality that wrestling with this tension is a part of being human.

As I imagine what the end of medical school and the beginning of residency will look like, and as I think about my touchstone for humanism, I remember the words of Steinbeck: goodness over perfection.

At Wake Forest School of Medicine, we often talk about compassionate care. This concept has become even more important in light of recent events and the symbol of hope the white coat has come to represent as part of the #frontlineheroes movement. Our hope for the Class of 2024, is that every time they put on their new coat they are reminded to seek goodness over perfection.

A Wake Forest Tradition

It has become a tradition of Wake Forest School of Medicine alumni to write notes of encouragement to first-year medical students. These notes are then placed in a pocket of each white coat given to a student. Whether serious or humorous, the notes remind students of the legacy they are joining and often spark personal interactions between students and alumni.