White Coat Ceremony

The White Coat Ceremony is a symbol of entry into the profession of medicine, and is a very important defining moment for first year medical students.

More important than the day students graduate, the day that they begin medical school marks the start of their responsibilities as a health professional. Students accept the obligation to demonstrate respect, become a teacher, and embody humanism. This ceremony symbolizes the first step into being a professional, rather than a step toward becoming a professional. As they are welcomed into the Duke community of medical professionals, students are urged to reflect upon and look forward to proclaiming the commitment to medicine at this most distinctive ceremonial event.

White coats and stethoscopes are provided to the students by the Duke Medical Alumni Association.

Hippocratic Oaths - Class Entering in 2021

As we embark upon this journey together, we want to share our intentions to embrace the following oath:

SECTION 1 (mentors/family/supporters): 

  1. To those who helped us get here: 
  2. Whether in the crowd, on Zoom, or elsewhere, we thank you.
  3. We promise 
    1. To honor your sacrifices by making the most of this opportunity
    2. To continue to make time for you
    3. To remember the ways that you inspire us
    4. And to embody your spirit and values on the journey ahead


SECTION 2 (ourselves):

To ourselves:

  1. We will offer the same grace, kindness, and compassion we strive to show others. 
  2. We will recognize our own humanity - to honor our past, remember our purpose, and know that our journey in medicine is just one part of who we are.
  3. We will conduct ourselves with humility, integrity, and a strong moral standard.
  4. We recognize that we will not always achieve perfection, but we will remain resilient and committed to being the best we can be.


SECTION 3 (each other):

  1. To our classmates: 
    1. We vow to honor the diversity of our class and to treat our peers with equity and respect.
    2. We vow to encourage our peers to pursue their unique interests and promote innovation within our field
    3. We vow to challenge our classmates to be lifelong learners and to foster our collective growth individually, interpersonally, and professionally.
    4. We vow to celebrate each other’s success and support one another through the challenges we may face.
    5. We vow to hold our classmates and peers accountable to honor these values, and to promote an environment of justice, integrity, and collaboration.


SECTION 4 (healthcare community):

To those in our healthcare community 

We Promise:

  1. To uplift, respect, and collaborate with every member of the Duke health family
  2. To engage thoughtfully with our instructors and to embody the values and lessons they bestow on us
  3. To resist complacency in our practice, committing to continuous learning and development
  4. To work together to create more accessible and just medical care and to challenge the practices and assumptions that perpetuate inequity
  5. To honor and celebrate the legacy of the healthcare providers who have come before us, especially those who have dedicated their lives to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.


SECTION 5 (future patients):

  1. To our future patients, we promise: 
    1. To understand each patient as an individual and recognize how their unique identity will inform the way we must care for them.
    2. To recognize that our first duty is to listen to our patients as we strive to promote both physical and mental health.
    3. To honor the memory of the patients who came before by providing care to the best of our ability.
    4. To respect and uphold the agency of each patient. 
    5. To treat patients using the best evidence available and to improve the evidence as we practice.
    6. To embrace the privilege and responsibility of patient care by acting as advocates, partners, and educators for our patients.


Together we strive to uphold the tenets of this oath. These are the principles to which we hold ourselves and one another accountable. We take this oath in recognition that as future physicians, we will gain knowledge, power, and privilege. With that privilege comes a responsibility to ourselves, to each other, and to our community to work towards a healthcare system that is safer and more equitable for all. 


[Intro: Read as Group]

One week ago, we convened here at the Duke University School of Medicine, coming from different backgrounds, life experiences, and perspectives. We were funneled into where we stand today, on the same stage, about to embark on this journey together.

[Speaker 1]

In the coming years, we will strive to educate ourselves about the history of our profession, both the successes and failures, and will dedicate ourselves to creating and improving a just and equitable health system for patients from all walks of life.

[Speaker 2]

We will treat every patient with compassion and empathy, knowing each has their own story beyond individual illnesses or injuries. We will recognize and honor the whole patient in front of us, respecting each patient's autonomy and their unique values, wishes, and needs.

[Speaker 3]

We will practice humility, always striving to understand the lived experiences of our patients, classmates, and community at large. We will continue to be grateful to our families, friends and support systems for their integral roles in shaping who we are and who we intend to become.

[Speaker 4]

We will put our patients first. We will advocate for every patient, irrespective of any borders, and be held accountable for our actions to society. We acknowledge our responsibility to advocate for those who do not have access or a voice in the system.

[Speaker 5]

We will remain receptive to the needs of our community and any communities we may serve in the future, and strive to fulfill those needs to the best of our ability.

[Speaker 6]

We pledge to be a source of hope for our patients, and to be accountable to our colleagues and families. We will continually practice building trust with patients and connecting with them on a deeper level.

[Speaker 7]

As lifelong learners, we will continuously work to adapt, refine, and expand our medical knowledge and skills so that we may best serve our patients. We will dive into different cultures and personal narratives to provide the highest quality of care.

[Conclusion: Read as Group]

At the conclusion of this chapter, we will graduate medical school, pursuing excellence in different fields around the world. Yet, we will all share this foundational experience of learning, bonding, and reflecting as we continue on our paths forward to serve our patients. We vow to put our education toward the service of the common good and the wellbeing of society.

Dear future patients, 

We stand before you with knowledge, perspective, and experience shaped by our diverse backgrounds and shared social context. We are embarking on our medical education within an ongoing pandemic, during a racial reckoning, and as we contend with an inequitable healthcare system. As lifelong learners, we are ready to listen and put our best foot forward. So that we may better care for you, we have committed to this oath of service:

We strive for respect, professional collaboration, and graceful leadership. We will hold all members of our healthcare teams accountable for our actions and inactions.

We undertake this sacred responsibility to provide you with just, equitable, and holistic care as we walk with you through your healthcare journey. With specific consideration for race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, citizenship status, and age, we will prioritize understanding the narratives and needs of patients with historically marginalized identities.

We understand that you contribute to and are impacted by the communities in which you belong, and that we hold responsibilities to both. Thus we strive to be invested members within the communities we practice in and serve. To the best of our ability, we aim to remain informed about the social and historical contexts of our communities, and to implement that knowledge in our decision-making partnership. We strive to care for ourselves and those around us so that we may better care for you.

We will listen to your needs without judgment and facilitate understanding to preserve agency in your own health care. We endeavor to practice with empathy, confidentiality, honesty, competency, humility, and transparency. This we define as high quality care.

We will strive to never become complacent in our activism as physicians, educators, scientists, and engaged citizens. We will do our best to facilitate your access to high quality health care and do our part to ensure you are able to live a healthy life. We will question our surroundings and societal norms and advocate for their improvement.

This is our commitment to you.


The Entering Class of 2021


In the witness of those who have brought us here today, we swear to uphold the following to the best of our ability.

To our patients: we promise to recognize you as people first, to listen, to respect your autonomy, to empower, educate, and partner with you in your care, and to hold in utmost confidence that which you entrust to us in your pursuit of health and wellbeing.

To our communities: we promise to recognize and use our privilege as physicians to advocate for equity and justice, to practice with cultural humility, and to celebrate and learn from the diversity of our communities,

To our teachers and mentors: we promise to keep our curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, to work hard, to remember our lessons learned, to respect your knowledge and the ways you have worked to advance the field of medicine, to honor the sacrifices you have made in the service of our education, and to pass our knowledge to those who follow.

To our peers: we promise to contribute to a culture of collaboration and vulnerability, to value the power of respectful communication, to kindly hold each other accountable, to support each other through highs and lows, and to work together as lifelong learners to improve the field of medicine.

To ourselves: we promise to hold ourselves to high standards in practice and integrity, to guard against the abuses of our power, to be aware of our individual and professional limitations, to remember our humanity and imperfections, and to care for ourselves.

We strive to maintain these values and to remember that we chose medicine in the service of others.

Today, we enthusiastically commit to the responsibilities and privileges of entering the medical profession.

We pledge to be an advocate for all patients, keeping their well-being and autonomy at the forefront of our service. We will listen with the intent of understanding the patient’s health and narrative. We pledge to empower patients to be active agents in their own health through clear communication and education while maintaining empathy, humanity, and confidentiality.

We strive to provide nuanced care that embraces all patients equally, regardless of our own identities, and to build a community that fosters diversity, compassion, and trust. We will acknowledge the history of medical bias that has directly contributed to health disparities and medical mistrust. We, therefore, commit to working with communities to implement sustainable solutions that make healthcare more equitable and accessible for all.

We vow to grow and strengthen our medical community by learning from and educating our fellow colleagues in pursuit of practicing justice, adaptability, and comprehensive care. We commit ourselves to operate at the forefront of health innovation, remembering that our role exists to promote equity and moral responsibility in scientific discovery.

As we care for our patients and community, we vow to take care of ourselves in mind, body, and spirit. We aspire to pursue excellence while maintaining an awareness of our capabilities and limitations.

With this oath, we pledge to be physicians who serve with compassion, humility, and dedication.