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A Piece of My Mind
January 1/8, 2019

The Weight of the White Coat

Author Affiliations
  • 1School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, California
JAMA. 2019;321(1):35-36. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.20149

The bell rang. I stared at the doorknob, wondering if I could put the moment off indefinitely if I simply stood still. But all along the hallway, medical students clad in white coats were stepping into their assigned rooms to meet their very first standardized patients. Greetings were muffled by doors clicking shut behind them.

I thought of the first doctor’s appointment that I could remember clearly—a home visit when I was 7 years old, confined to bed rest with an unrelenting fever and cough. During the 3 weeks of my illness, my parents hovered around me with increasing worry. Their concern deepened whenever one of them placed a hand on my forehead that came away slick with sweat. They would talk among themselves just out of earshot in a way that made my stomach coil with anxiety.

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