The White Coat Ceremony was first proposed by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, founded in 1989 to foster humanism in medicine.  The premise of the ceremony is simple: medical students should be given well-defined guidelines regarding the expectations and responsibilities appropriate for the medical profession prior to their first day of education and training.

The ceremony was devised to recognize the commitment of the entering student by creating a psychological, intellectual and ethical contract for the profession, promoting empathy in the practice of medicine by the recitation of an oath similar to the Hippocratic Oath taken at the conclusion of study, and donning of the white coat, a symbol of the medical profession.