Mission: to advance the health of the people of Wisconsin by supporting medical education and health initiatives.
 

White Coats

Each year, with the help of physicians throughout the state, the Foundation is able to provide a white coat and personal message to every first-year medical student who attends school in Wisconsin. The White Coat Campaign provides a wonderful opportunity for physicians from different generations to connect and allows practicing and retired physicians to make a difference in the lives of medical students.

Individual physicians, county medical societies and health care groups are asked to sponsor one or more white coats. In addition to covering the cost of the coat, the sponsoring physician has the opportunity to write a quick note of welcome and encouragement to the student. That note is given to the student when they receive that first white coat. Students also receive a pre-addressed blank notecard and are asked to send a note of thanks to their sponsoring physician.

About 430 students enter medical school each year and your help is needed to make sure each one is warmly welcomed to the medical profession in Wisconsin. You can request to sponsor a specific student or a student at a specific school if you wish—maybe one at each school!

To participate in the White Coat Campaign, donate and write your note online or email campaign coordinator Lori Koffarnus and indicate how many students you would like to sponsor. The requested donation is $100 for each white coat. Additional funds raised will help support other leadership and development opportunities for medical students.

To see some of the inspiring messages of encouragement that your colleagues shared with the incoming class, click here.

The Impact of a White Coat


Rachel CravenRachel Craven UW School of Medicine & Public Health student
As a first year medical student beginning school during the pandemic, my white coat is hanging in my home closet, still awaiting clinical action out of an abundance of caution. Nevertheless, my white coat is an important symbol to me, especially because of the way I received the coat.

A few days before school started, I injured my right hand and needed to have surgery to repair a severed tendon. I was saddened to learn that the surgery needed to happen during our very first day of medical school - a day when we were meant to meet classmates and staff and receive our new white coats. My school was very supportive during the entire process, but what blew me away was my professor's offer to drive to my apartment after I returned home from the hospital that day to drop off my coat so I could have it for our upcoming white coat ceremony. The picture I've included shows my delight to be posing in my new coat, along with my bandaged hand.

The kindness my professor and school showed me during that experience, as well as knowing that alumni are part of each new generation of coats, is emblematic of the care I want to extend to my future patients and colleagues throughout my career. I eagerly await the day when I can don my coat again. 

 

Sophia KiernanSophia Kiernan MCW Milwaukee student
I received my Wisconsin Foundation Medical Society white coat in the Fall of 2019.  What made it even more special for me is that my mother is also a physician.  When I was very young, all the physicians I knew were female—my neighbor, my pediatrician, my mom—and I was absolutely floored when I discovered than men could be doctors, too!  My white coat is meaningful to me because it means I get to join an amazing group of female physicians practicing in Wisconsin!
Janna OchoaJanna Ochoa MCW Milwaukee student

Routines

BEFORE
Alarm sounds at 4:30 am.
Another sunrise on the drive to the hospital.
Busy hustle and bustle of rounds.
White coat pockets brimming with supplies.
Cafeteria food for noon conference.
Sign out and traffic on the way home.
Quick dinner over a Netflix episode.
Prep for tomorrow’s team learning topic.
Exhausted head hits the pillow.

AFTER
Alarm sounds at 7:55 am.
8 am Zoom class from my couch.
Snooze through 30-minute lunch break.
Sketches to stay awake for the second half.
Dinner over a Netflix episode turns into the entire season.
Prep for a virtual patient appointment tomorrow.
White coat hangs limply on a hook.
Is tomorrow a Wednesday?
Not tired, but head hits the pillow anyway.
Rufus SweeneyRufus Sweeney UW School of Medicine & Public Health student

My short white coat doesn't fool anyone. Not that I care; I prefer that people know that I don't know anything before they have a chance to wonder.

But some days, patients really surprise me. I was on my OB/GYN rotation, and I was working a long day shift in labor and delivery. A woman in triage was not doing well, so we sprinted down (I don't use the term "sprint" metaphorically. We literally did a wind spring.). When we arrived, we saw that the woman was frightened. The nurse had primed her about how things had taken a turn for the worse, and the monitor looked bad. The residents scanned a few times with doppler, and it confirmed our worst suspicionsthe baby was crashing.

In that situation, it becomes a race against time. We brought the woman up to the next floor, where the OR's were located, and her husband followed close behind. I couldn't contribute much, so I assigned myself to care for the husband.

I remember that the situation was frenetic. The woman was rightly terrified, and the residents worked quickly to make sure that she and the baby were well cared for. As we walked, I asked the husband if he had any questions. He looked at me, looked down, and with total sincerity he pointed and asked, "Are those Allbirds?"

I couldn't help but laugh. The absurdity of seeing your wife and unborn child in peril and only thinking to ask about my apparel.

I guess I should have expected that, though. I was wearing a short white coat.


Amber ShethAmber Sheth UW School of Medicine & Public Health student
I have two white coat stories, both, surprisingly, of times when no one saw that I was wearing it. I remember walking to my preceptor clinic, wearing my white coat underneath my winter jacket. I imagined to myself that this is how superheroes must feel--looking like an ordinary person on the outside but knowing that they have special skills and abilities that they can use to help others at a moment's notice. It made me feel powerful, wearing my coat that day.

Another time, I was walking to my inpatient internal medicine rotation. Again, I had my winter coat on over my white coat. However by that point I had learned to fill my white coat pockets with all kinds of things: a tuning fork, a reflex hammer, a penlight, an ACLS pocket guide, a small notebook, several pens, and even lip balm. That day, rather than feeling like a superhero's cape, I felt as though my white coat weighed me down, symbolic of the stress of always feeling behind the curve while on rotation. I soldiered on.
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