Perseverance, resilience and determination. These are the three words that came to mind as we watched McGill’s MDCM Class of 2024 proudly don their white coats at the 2021 White Coat Ceremony. The ceremony took place on October 8, at New Residence Hall.  

Officially known as “Donning the Healer’s Habit Ceremony,” the White Coat Ceremony marks second-year medical students’ transition from laymanship to physicianship. It was inaugurated at McGill in 2001, and is now a rite of passage in every medical student’s journey at McGill; one that comes with pride, humility and great responsibility.  

This year’s White Coat Ceremony was memorable for several reasons. For one, it was the 20th anniversary of the ceremony at McGill. Making it even more special, for the first time ever, the ceremony was jointly conducted by the Montreal campus and Campus Outaouais of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. Thanks to the power of technology, students at both campuses were virtually connected and collectively celebrated this academic milestone as one united class.  

The ceremony opened with a virtual rendition of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 by the Medici di McGill Orchestra. The invited keynote speaker was Dr. Diane Robert, Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine at Université de Montréal. Amongst the faculty leaders present at the ceremony were Dr. David Eidelman, Vice-Principal (Health Affairs) and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, and Dr. Gilles Brousseau, Vice-Dean and Director of Campus Outaouais.  

Dr. Eidelman’s address to the Class of 2024 reaffirmed the duty of care that comes with the white coat: “Your white coat is a symbol of both these things – the science and also the grand responsibility you have. [It] ultimately symbolizes your intention – to do the very best you can for your patients.” Dr. Eidelman urged the students to reflect on how the current global public health situation will help them develop their talents and gifts as they pursue their medical studies.  

This year’s ceremony was a reflection of the unprecedented times the world is currently living in. Round tables that were once filled with canapés now contained procedural masks and hand sanitizers; seats that were once filled with loved ones now sat empty, serving to provide distance between each student. Despite these safety regulations and procedures, the significance of the ceremony was not undermined, as evidenced by the students’ enthusiastic cheers, laughs, and smiles.

The 2021 ceremony was undoubtedly one for the books – 180 students from the Montreal campus, 24 students from Campus Outaouais, but one McGill MDCM Class of 2024.  


To read about the original White Coat Ceremony in 2001, please read Donning the Healer’s Habit” A New McGill Tradition  (McGill in Focus: Medicine, Winter 2001-02, pages 8-9). 


Photos by Owen Egan and Joni Dufour


12 November 2021