When Ivorique Hambrick puts on her white lab coat for the first time as a
student at Western University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine of the
Pacific (COMP) in a campus ceremony Saturday, August 5, it will symbolize
the culmination of a six-year dream – to become a medical student.
“”Putting on that lab coat will mean everything to me,”” she said. “”It means
that it’s [a career in medicine] tangible; I can see it. I’ll know that if
I’ve made it this far, I can do the rest!””
Hambrick will be one of 176 first-year COMP students who, with about 244
other students starting their health professions education at four of
Western University’s colleges, will don their white lab coats for the
first time during special ceremonies. A White Coat Ceremony is very
symbolic for health-professionals-in-training – it helps students become
aware of their responsibilities as healers from the very first day of
their education. The ceremony encourages them to accept the obligations
inherent in their scope of practice: to be excellent in science and to be
compassionate in their care.
It is also a sign they have achieved something many attempt but few
accomplish – getting accepted to school.
No health professions educational program is easy to get into – nursing is
not, physical therapy is not, neither is pharmacy nor physician assistant
studies. But getting into medical school is the epitome of tough.
According to the Princeton Review, applicants have about a one in three
chance of getting accepted to one of the 145 allopathic (MD) and
osteopathic (DO) medical schools in the country. But those odds really
don’t speak to how grueling, time consuming and expensive the whole
Once the decision has been made to pursue a career in medicine, a future
doctor must complete an undergraduate degree that generally includes a
year each of biology or zoology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry,
physics and English. In 1996, according to the Princeton Review, the
overall average grade point average of successful medical school
applicants was 3.4 (out of a possible 4.0). Beyond their academic status,
applicants are judged on criteria such as how much time they have spent in
a hospital or clinical setting as well as their volunteer service within
their community (medical schools like to see applicants who give back to
others). Applicants also must secure letters of reference from professors
Then, when they’re ready to apply – a good year and a half before they
hope to start medical school – they should visit different schools, take
the grueling Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and get a score between
8.5 and 12 on three out of four sections to even begin to be competitive
(out of a possible top score of 15), and fill out a multi-page application.
Medical school tuition, of course, is expensive – costing up to $25,000
per year for a private school. Applying is expensive, as well. Since most
people apply to 6-12 schools, the whole process – including the
applications plus travel to the schools that invite an applicant to
interview – can easily cost $2,000 or more. And many people apply for two
or three or more years before they finally are accepted or they give up
Hambrick was one of those who applied two years in a row. She wasn’t
accepted in 1998, the first year she applied to schools – six allopathic
and one osteopathic. Last year she sent applications to 10 schools, four
of them osteopathic. She’d done considerable research between cycles and
decided osteopathic medicine – with its emphasis on treating the whole
person and its use of osteopathic manipulative medicine – was more to her
“”The more I learned of COMP and what great people are there – how truly
concerned they are about us and that we become good physicians – the more
I became convinced this was the place for me,”” she said.
Hambrick is 30, with a husband and two children. She always wanted to be a
doctor, knowing it was the career for her when she was just two or three,
she said. She even pursued pre-med as a major during her first year in
college, but became very discouraged when her grades didn’t match her
aspirations. She dropped out of school and entered the Navy, figuring part
of her problem was the lack of discipline often inherent in 18 and 19 year
olds, believing the Navy would help her focus.
She also married and she and her husband, Michael, soon started a family,
which now consists of a girl and a boy, Victoria, 8, and D’Arius, 7. She
eventually became a hospital corpsman and decided in 1994 to continue
following her dream of a medical career.
Hambrick completed college and started applying to medical schools. She
was accepted to COMP/Western University in December. She and her family
soon relocated from Texas to Corona (Michael is a hospital corpsman now
stationed at Camp Pendleton) and all of them will be there at the White
Coat Ceremony to watch her begin her long-deferred dream.
Western University holds its Fourth Annual White Coat Ceremonies on
Saturday, August 5. The University will hold three separate ceremonies for
four different programs.
Incoming COMP students – such as Hambrick – will be cloaked in their lab
coats at 10:30 a.m. in the Health Sciences Amphitheater, Health Sciences
Center. Students entering the University’s College of Pharmacy will
receive their white coats in a ceremony at 11 a.m., Prem Reddy Hall,
Health Professions Center. Students in Western University’s College of
Graduate Nursing and in the Master of Science in Physician Assistant
Studies Program will receive their coats at 11 a.m., Amphitheater II,
Health Professions Center.
For more information on the White Coat Ceremonies, contact the Events and
Programs Department at (909) 469-5365.