Murray Kopelow, MD, ACCME President and CEO, gave the inaugural address at the White Coat Ceremony for incoming medical students at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine in Winnipeg, Canada, in August. White coat ceremonies mark the student’s transition from premedical study to the study of clinical sciences. Dr. Kopelow is an alumnus of the university and had served as the university’s Associate Dean for Continuing Medical Education.
Dr. Kopelow explained that the white coat ceremony is about compassionate care, humanism in medicine, and how important it is for students to keep their souls intact as they embark on the journey of becoming and being a physician. He told the students that they should take care of themselves and their families in addition to their patients, and he shared the choices that he and his wife, who is also a physician, have made during their careers to ensure that they have time for themselves, each other, and their family. “My personal opinion is that you should not ever, ever let your spouse, your children, or your family say that your patients are more important to you than they are,” he said. “Each of them needs to be important. Don’t let your family suffer. Don’t let yourself suffer. Don’t let your soul suffer.”
Regarding education, he advised the students to adopt a scholarly approach. “Be reflective, don’t learn—but discover,” he said. “Dedicate yourself to a life of learning. Make it your habit; make it your intention to learn and to change. Don’t do it because someone tells you must. Do it because it is the right thing to do.”
Dr. Kopelow cautioned students that they would encounter boundary issues with patients and conflicts of interest with pharmaceutical companies. It’s not wrong to find yourself at a boundary, he told the students, but you need to learn how to manage these issues.
Throughout his address, he emphasized the importance of making the right choices and of being ethical and principled in their personal and professional lives. “Keep making the right choices and the choices that will preserve your soul, your humanity, because that will reflect on your ability to practice medicine.”
His fellow speakers included Brian Postl, MD, Dean of Medicine, University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine; The Honourable Theresa Oswald, Minister of Health; William D. B. Pope, MD, Registrar, the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Manitoba; and David Chartrand, President, Manitoba Métis Federation.