Newsbites (Page 4)

Newsbites (Page 4) McGill University

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Home > McGill News > 2001 > Winter 2001-2002 > Newsbites > Newsbites (Page 4)

The Wearing of the White

Photo PHOTO: Owen Egan

The Faculty of Medicine held the first "white coat" ceremony ever at McGill in October, with 130 second-year medical students donning the doctor's traditional garb in the McIntyre Medical Building and reciting a pledge they themselves composed. The ceremony is common in U.S. medical schools and is meant to symbolize the transition from book learning and labwork to the world of clinical practice and patient care. Dubbed "Donning the Healer's Habit," the ceremony highlights the traditional white coat worn by physicians.

"It's a symbol of compassion and patient care," student organizer Karen Devon told the McGill Reporter. "We want to de-emphasize the notion that it's a symbol of power. What we want to emphasize is the trust that's being given to us."

In addition to the Hippocratic oath, students can now add the following to their list of words to live by:

"It is with honour that we don our white coats from this day forth. We pledge by what we hold most sacred to use it not as a shield but as a bridge to reach out to those entrusted to our care. We shall strive with passion and humility to create lasting alliances in health, pursue professional integrity and provide compassionate care for all."

The inaugural white coat ceremony was dedicated to Dr. Joseph Wener, BSc'39, MDCM'41, MSc'48, DipTropMed'50, a much-loved physician and educator at McGill, who inspired generations of students at the Jewish General and Royal Victoria hospitals.


Classy Classrooms

Imagine crossing a drawbridge to get to class. McGill students and professors have a new and invigorating place to learn and teach: at the Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, England.

Built in 1415 and located an hour away from London, the first brick castle in England is home to the International Study Centre, part of the Canadian University Study Abroad Program. Six Canadian universities, including McGill, Dalhousie and the University of British Columbia, are now eligible to send students and professors there every term. Classes are small but there's lots of space to roam in the castle's 500-acre grounds.

Herstmonceux was bought in 1992 by Dr. Alfred Bader, a Queen's University graduate and founder of chemical company Sigma-Aldrich. Bader then donated the property to his alma mater, which transformed it into a study centre in 1994. The ISC emphasizes international, experiential learning and incorporates Europe-wide field trips into all of its programs.

Undergraduates looking for credits in arts, education, and international business law, or professors looking for new teaching opportunities in a unique environment should consult

Is There a Dogtor in the House

Photo PHOTO: Owen Egan

Sarita Elman, BA'63, along with her dogs Bella and Ralph, is changing the meaning of "hospital volunteer." Elman is showing that pets can be taken out of the home and into the hospital -- to amazing effect. Bella and Ralph, both terriers, make weekly rounds at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) hospitals, visiting patients and staff in neurology, cardiology, psychiatry and palliative care, under the auspices of the MUHC's Pet Therapy Program.

"Cuddly dogs stimulate social interaction and increase awareness of what's going on around you," Elman says. "People who are neurologically impaired by a stroke or brain injury can even develop hand-eye coordination just by reaching out and petting Ralph."

Although a relatively new concept here, the Delta Society in the U.S. has been heavily promoting therapy through pets since the mid-seventies. Recently, the Red Cross used dogs to ease feelings of loss and anxiety after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington. Studies show that therapy programs like the one at the MUHC reduce blood pressure and relieve anxiety in both staff and patients at medical treatment centres. Dogs also help withdrawn and autistic children and lower risk factors for heart disease.

"It does my heart good, too!" Elman declares. "Volunteering is an entirely uplifting experience."


A retired CBC television news producer, Elman says she "started bringing my dogs to the hospitals because people told me they had to be shared." But it's not as easy as taking a detour on your afternoon walk -- getting a pet through the doors requires a vigorous program of shampooing, flea-prevention and personality evaluation. Elman stresses that Ralph and Bella uphold the highest standards of hygiene, even wearing little boots on their paws to protect both themselves and the patients.

The Pet Therapy Program has about five regular volunteers right now, but Elman says another 10 are needed to meet the current demand. Since volunteering your pet does cost money (to cover veterinary fees, transportation, grooming and medical supplies, for example), fundraising efforts are currently under way. To find out more, call the volunteer office at (514) 937-6011 ext. 43007.

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