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

process is.

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

and physicians.

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

trying.

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

liking.

“”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.