Trinity School of Medicine recently held its White Coat Ceremony for the September 2023 starting class. The new matriculates, parents, relatives, friends, and other well-wishers, including Her Excellency Dame Susan Dougan, Governor General of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, gathered to celebrate this important day at Kingstown Baptist Church in St. Vincent. Presiding over the event was Trinity’s Dean and Provost Dr. John P. Geisler with guest speakers Honorable Curtis King, St. Vincent’s Minister of Education, keynote speaker and Trinity graduate Dr. Allison Laffoon, and the Associate Dean of Basic Sciences, Dr. Nagadharsan Devendra.
Dr. Geisler imparted the significance of the white coat ceremony and how important it is to train compassionate and caring physicians from the beginning.
“Being a doctor of medicine is not just a career, it’s a calling, a calling for your life to love and help people in need.”
Honorable Curtis King welcomed the new students to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and congratulated them on pursuing a noble profession.
The ceremony’s keynote speaker, Dr. Allison Laffoon, is an alum of Trinity School of Medicine who graduated in 2017. Dr. Laffoon completed her residency as a General Surgery Resident at the University of Texas Health Science Center and is now immersed in a Facial & Body Cosmetic Surgery Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee.
Dr. Laffoon continued the ceremony by imparting her own words of wisdom. She congratulated every new student on their acceptance to Trinity and stated that what differentiates Trinity from other medical schools is the people. She told the new students that the people sitting beside them will quickly become their closest friends and eventually evolve into their family. After reminiscing about her own medical journey, Dr. Laffoon gave the students some pieces of advice to take throughout their own journeys:
- Don’t get ahead of yourself. Focus on learning the basics, anatomy, physiology, etc. These courses are the foundation on which you will build your practice and what your future patients will trust in with their lives. While it’s fun and tempting to look into the future, focus on today. Learn the material well, understand it, instead of just memorizing it. You’re entering a field of life-long learning and the foundation that you build here will carry you throughout your career.
- You are your first patient. You can’t care for others if you don’t first care for yourself. Study hard, find a routine, sleep well, and have fun. Enjoy this beautiful island, time will fly by, trust me, and you will regret not hiking the volcano, going to the waterfalls, sailing the Grenadines, swimming with the sea turtles, visiting the Botanical Gardens, volunteering, learning to scuba dive, spending time with the VSPCA, the Red Cross, the World Pediatric Project and more. These opportunities are rare and unique and Vincentians are genuine and kind, take advantage of it.
- Don’t lose that chip on your shoulder. For many of you, the journey to get here has not been easy and I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it’s not going to get any easier. Focus on what you can control and forget the things you can’t. Don’t get complacent, everyone in your position across the world is smart, driven, and has the same goals as you do.
- Think of progress, not perfection. You’ll never be perfect but yet you will strive for perfection in every patient encounter because that’s what the job demands. Learn to live with that dichotomy and to learn from your mistakes, because no matter what you do, complications will occur. Don’t be ashamed to need help for anything ever. All you can do is your best. Anything less than your best is to cheat yourself of potential, and that just leads to regret. Your best will vary from day to day, and that’s okay. It’s always better to do something right than to do it quickly.
- Go to sleep. There are no problems too big or too hard that can’t be helped or solved by a full eight hours of rest. As beneficial as sleep is for your body, the brain receives arguably the most extraordinary enrichment from our slumber. Sleep before learning prepares the mind for the initial encoding of new memories. Sleep after learning supports the subsequent consolidation of those memories, decreasing the likelihood of forgetting. The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.
In closing, Dr. Laffoon left the students with an old adage that she heard throughout her training:
“The days are long, but the years are short. It’s been ten short years since I’ve been sitting right where you are, and honestly it feels like just yesterday at times. What I want you to do as you continue on your journey is to think about what you want in life. Visualize how you want your life to look and then go make it happen. Create that life every single day. Truly live your lives now because time keeps ticking away, the miles keep passing, whether you like it or not. And the next time you look out from your path, it may very well be you standing up here imparting your words of wisdom onto the next generation of physicians. So let me leave you from a quote from Seneca, ‘putting things off is the biggest waste of time, it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising us the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”
After the donning of the white coat, Dr. Devendra closed the ceremony by reminding students that donning the white coat marks an incredibly significant transition in their lives as they enter into the medical profession.
As a university, we are excited to welcome this group of future physicians and look forward to supporting and being a part of each and every student’s medical journey.