Off to Medical School: A Mom’s Day Out

August 29, 2011 at 4:44 pm Leave a comment

I will never forget the day my husband, youngest daughter and I drove to Boston to drop my eldest daughter off at college 7 years ago; the day we sat with hundreds of parents at her graduation 3 years ago; or the day we put her on a plane as she headed off to Indonesia to work in Borneo 2 years ago.

Now, I’ll never forget driving to West Philadelphia for her medical school orientation.  After all these adventures, I thought I was prepared for this event. It was only around the corner, right?

Yes, around the corner physically, but emotionally it was a monumental occasion. I knew that attending  her White Coat Ceremony (a tradition in medical school orientation) would be memorable, but I had no idea how much it would mean to hear my child recite the Hippocratic Oath with her peers.  Every day, I work hard to educate physicians around the country about the signs and symptoms of celiac disease and ask them to be our partners in diagnosis and treatment.  Now, my own daughter is now going to be one of them. Wow!

Alice and Elizabeth at White Coat Ceremony

Me and my daughter at her White Coat Ceremony

What was this day like? It started off with a session that explained how grueling the first year of medical school can be, yet reassured parents that all of our kids will strike a balance.

I also got a chance to speak with the dean of the medical school (any chance to hand out my card and spread the word). She turned her head toward me and simply said, “Celiac disease; this disease certainly is receiving a lot of attention lately.”

We were then invited to spend some time as a medical school student.  This was fun! We watched standardized patient actors simulate different patient/physician scenarios, which was fascinating.  In one situation, the actor kept insisting that the physician give her a prescription. ”I want medicine,” she pleaded, even though she only had a virus! It truly hit home. In our case, there is no pill…at least not yet. So, we make ourselves better through diet and dedication.

After that, we checked out the robotic patient.  They asked for a couple of volunteers to assist with “surgery.”  Of course, I jumped right up (I am a learner at heart). My patient had a heart attack and I had to use the defibrillator.  No worries, he made it through.

Next, we headed to a room where we worked with partners on a project.  It was truly interesting because it taught us all about teamwork. Statistically, patients fare better in medical situations if they have a communicative team caring for them.  Lunch was next (gluten-free for me, of course).

Finally, after a number of speeches, we all had the chance to watch our sons and daughters receive their white coat and stethoscope. (Did you know that the length of the coat depicts your level  of schooling?)   I must say that watching my “baby” up on stage was a bit overwhelming.  My mother died of pancreatic cancer before I graduated from college. It changed my life. I too was headed to medical school, but changed my mind as I couldn’t bare the pain of spending time in the hospital. Looking back, I was always passionate about medicine, and now I’ve turned that passion into preventive medicine and raising awareness for celiac disease.

I can’t express how proud I was when Elizabeth took her oath.  And, thanks to getting properly diagnosed, I was there watching her.

– Alice

Want your doctor to be more informed about celiac disease? Learn how you can talk to them about NFCA’s free online course for physicians.

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