Coated in compassion

At the White Coat Ceremony every August, students in DMU’s clinical programs don this symbol of professional excellence as hundreds of family members, friends and DMU community members watch with pride and expectation. Donors play a big role, too, by making gifts to sponsor the coats and the ceremony itself. Notes inserted in the white coats’ pockets make students aware of this support. Here is a letter that first-year osteopathic medical student Ashraf Uddin sent to his white coat sponsor, Victoria Herring, J.D., a member of the DMU Board of Trustees. 

Dear Ms. Herring,

Ashraf Uddin, D.O.'18, and his family at the 2014 White Coat Ceremony.

I would like to wholeheartedly thank you for sponsoring this momentous occasion for me as I don the white coat and begin my transformation to a well-rounded, collaborative and compassionate physician with my DMU brothers and sisters. I realize that you do not know me nor what I may be capable of, but understand that I do not take your investment of trust in my future lightly. I will strive hard to become not only a contributing and resourceful member of my profession, but also a better person who welcomes every person I meet with love like family. The smile on my family’s faces as I took a huge step toward my dream of becoming a physician could not have happened without your generous gift.

On my journey to entering medical school, I met numerous people who helped paint the portrait of the physician I want to be one day. I met an inspiring pediatrician who has been practicing for decades while fighting Parkinson’s disease who continues to give his heart, mind and soul to service and charity… From him, I learned how to show compassion and love to a complete stranger — to entwine their life with your own. All proceeds of his office went directly to his charity that funded his impoverished hometown in India among other areas needing aid. This doctor brought me to tears when he handed me a scholarship check to put toward my seat here at DMU. I pray that I can one day live up to the faith this great man put in me.

I also met teachers who showed me that learning was a way of life. I learned from them that every person I meet has something I can learn from… To me, medicine and teaching are mirrored professions. The student-teacher relationship is identical to that of the patient-physician relationship, and I truly hope to embody that when I practice. Teaching is something beyond an obligation to help someone gain skills. It’s a connection that allows you to cooperate in a two-way flow of information — a place of security and trust that fosters passion and commitment to achievement. I want to empower patients in their health care and help them take control of their future.

Beyond that, the everyday person I meet is just as inspiring to my being. My mother, my father — parents all over the world who continue to tirelessly work away nights and days so that their little ones can have big smiles, full stomachs and sweet dreams. One day I hope that I can evoke the love a parent has for their child firsthand.

It’s the average person who is passionate about their everyday life that makes me want to work hard in the service of mankind. Now you are one of those people in my journey — trusting me, empowering me and letting me strive to make waves in my chosen profession. I will wear this white coat with a sense of professional duty sewn across my shoulder and love stitched into my heart.

Thank you for investing yourself in my future. You may not know me now, but when I walk as a medical graduate in four years, you can be confident that I will represent Des Moines University and all the people who have put their faith in me with every step I take, every wound I heal and every smile I leave on a patient’s face.

Sincerely and proudly,

Ashraf Uddin, D.O.’18

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