Winter 2020

Alumni on their Thoughts when Receiving their White Coat

What were your thoughts when you first put on your white coat?

LGBTQ Health Issue

White Coat Day is a day made for smiles, as in this photo of new student body president, LaShyra Nolen, a member of the Class of 2023, and a classmate at the August 2019 ceremony.

What were your thoughts when you first put on your white coat?

Alena Balasanova, MD ’12

That my parents’ sacrifice was worth it. They braved an escape from a war-torn country to seek political asylum in the United States to give their daughter a better life, one with opportunities that would allow her to grow up to be anything she wanted. For me, putting on that white coat was the embodiment of living the American dream. I am eternally grateful.

Steven Jonas, MD ’62

That’s my Class of 1962, and very proud of it!

Onesmo ole-Moiyoi, MD ’72

I had worked very hard and felt I was on the verge of joining HMS to become an HMS alumnus, despite many obstacles and, I should fairly add, many serendipitous opportunities, which I discussed in Against All Odds (pages 212-217) by Nora Nercessian, published by Harvard Medical School in 2004.

Robin Winkler Doroshow, MD ’73

I wonder if they’ll ever provide small women who are medical students with white coats that fit.

Paul Wheeler, MD ’61

My thoughts focused on learning and on not making embarrassing mistakes.

John Mordes, MD ’73

I do not recall, but I am certain, given the ongoing anguish of the Vietnam War at the time, that receiving the coat was not a big deal.

Luis Fernandez-Herlihy, MD ’49

Awe, trepidation, and the pleasure of being able to relieve human suffering.

Hena Ahmed, MD ’18

“What have I gotten myself into?”

David Dorsky, MD ’82 PhD ’82

When beginning ICM, to be honest, I was somewhat fearful that I wouldn’t adapt well to being in the presence of illness or learn to treat it. Although interested, I was intimidated. But the faculty were very supportive. I was lucky to speak with the remarkable Oliver Cope, MD ’28, at Massachusetts General Hospital, and he gave me an autographed copy of his helpful book, Man, Mind & Medicine: The Doctor’s Education, along with a copy of The Science and Art of Medicine in Some of Their Aspects, by Frederick Cheever Shattuck, MD 1873.

Royce Moser Jr., MD ’61

Hope I can learn to “care for the patient.”

Bartholomew Tortella, MD ’80

The white coat physically brought home to me the responsibility of serving patients with all of my heart, for it is said that because much has been given to you, much is certainly expected of you.

Samuel Kim, MD ’62


Carolyn Aldredge, MD ’64

I thought, I am where I have always wanted to be.

Richard B. Dobrow, MD ’62

I was excited to think that I had made a large first step toward becoming a doctor. We were able to wear name tags that said “Doctor,” which now appears not to be permitted in the interest of full disclosure to patients.

Joseph McCabe, MD ’74

I thought, this is scary. I don’t really know what I’m doing.

Donald Dillon, MD ’59

I’m sure I felt altruistic, eager to fulfill a lifelong desire to help people.

Carl Needy, MD ’49


John Merrifield, MD ’59

I was 21, book smart, and scared. John Stoeckle, MD ’47, took me in hand and, with firm mercy, saved my bacon.

"The white coat physically brought home to me the responsibility of serving patients with all of my heart, for it is said that because much has been given to you, much is certainly expected of you."

Lloyd Hamilton, MD ’54

As a corpsman with the U.S. Marines during World War II, I took care of many patients. My thoughts were the same then: How can I help this person with his/her suffering? It was a challenge.

Kaihi Fung, MD ’82

I just felt great!

William Kupsky, MD ’78

I thought, I’m not ready for this. It took years to get over the shock of being called doctor!

Richard Aadalen, MD ’65

I felt proud.

Bruce P. Barnett, MD ’75

While wearing the short white coat in medical school, I did not believe I had the knowledge or experience to be a safe and effective health care provider. The long coat I wore during residency did not make me any more confident.

John A. Stanley, MD ’58

I cannot remember any significant thoughts or feeling.

Joseph Burnett, MD ’58


Mary Flowers, MD ’78

Scary! I thought that I was important in making a difference in health care and society as a whole. I no longer wear white coats. I have not figured out what providers are supposed to wear.

Richard Peinert, MD ’73

White coat? Wouldn’t be caught dead in one! As a surgeon, I remember putting on scrubs in the locker room with Francis Moore, MD ’39, talking to me and doing the same. I felt so very cool!

Tamara Fountain, MD ’88

I look like a doctor! Fancy that.

George Ryan, MD ’53

A pride of achievement, the happiness of family pride, and the feeling I had a lot yet to learn.

Roy C. A. Weatherley-White, MD ’58

Pride and humility, if this is not a contradiction!

Joseph Barr, MD ’60

We didn’t get white coats until third year, or maybe until internship? Maybe we got name tags?

Hugh Hermann, MD ’54

I was happy as hell.

Ernest Bergel, MD ’56

I wondered whether I was worthy to wear it.

Samuel L. Katz, MD ’52

Joy and pride in having achieved that stage of career development.

Richard Hirschhorn, MD ’58


Nathan Selden, MD ’93

I wondered, will I do well? What will this be like? Will I make a difference? Will my patients value me, and my peers respect me? Medicine is fundamentally a voyage of humility.

Image: Gretchen Ertl