As I sat in the breakfast room just before the White Coat Ceremony, I found myself remembering my days in the technical theatre department at my high school back in California and the electric thrill of opening night.
For every stagehand and props manager and lighting designer, there is a special magic to opening night: the early call time to an empty theater, the comforting routine of setting the stage, the hush from the audience as the lights dim just before the curtain rises. The anticipation of every scene, every light cue, every laugh from the audience is both delightful and harrowing, and any techie can tell you about the euphoric rush that follows a perfect opening night curtain call. I felt that same magic beginning to simmer during that breakfast in the ballroom, surrounded by my new classmates, full of the same anticipation and excitement for the show ahead: a four-year production that will showcase our journeys from aspiring doctors to licensed physicians.
As first-year medical students at UCF, we receive our white coats before we even begin our classes, before we even know our way around campus. It is a symbol of all to which we commit ourselves—the symbol of commitment itself—and to do so before we even begin is to do so with the same faith a stage manager has, as she pulls open the curtain. We have never been a part of this show before, and it is possible that we will forget lines, miss our cues, make a very public blunder before a watchful and attentive audience. However, with all our rehearsal and preparation, it is much more likely that we will create something transformative, something enthralling, something necessary for the audience to see—we will create a new class of doctors who are committed to service, excellence, and the future of the healthcare world.
My old tech theatre days were joyous ones, frustrating ones, days of intense focus, and often dramatic ones as well. Just as each day in the tech theatre department brought new challenges, new opportunities, new creations along with each show, I suspect that medical school will follow the same pattern. Although our medical careers will be somewhat grander than a small-town high school production of Beauty and the Beast, we walk into our first year with the same sense of excitement and dedication and passion. On opening night, the stage mysteriously becomes a place of magic and adventures and journeys. We have been waiting in the wings for this moment, and as we slip our white coats on, the curtain rises. I’d like to say, “break a leg!” but we should probably learn how to fix them first.
Christina Seto is a first-year medical student at the UCF College of Medicine.
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