On the afternoon of April 8, the PharmD Class of 2017 took one step closer to becoming fully fledged pharmacists: for the first time, they formally donned the longer white coats that symbolize their profession.
Not, however, before Mother Nature toyed with us for a bit. As the students, their family and friends, and college faculty and staff gathered at Centennial Hall for the ceremony in normally bone-dry Tucson, it rained. Not a lot, but enough for folks to bring out umbrellas, for some students to cover their heads with their white coats and for event organizers to wring their hands and decide to move the post-ceremony refreshments indoors. By the time the event ended, however, the rain had stopped and everyone enjoyed a gloriously cool, cloudy afternoon on the lovely UA campus.
The annual White Coat Ceremony marks the transition between students’ third and fourth years of pharmacy school and symbolizes the transition from the passive environment of the classroom to the active environment of the clinic. At the ceremony, as the name suggests, the students are outfitted with their white coats in preparation for the beginning of their advanced clinical rotations.
These rotations will take place in hospitals, community pharmacies, Indian Health Service offices, ambulatory care clinics and a variety of other experiential settings. There, the students will apply what they have learned in the classroom in the last three years to serving real-life patients in the clinical setting.
Amy Kennedy, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, acted as master of ceremonies for the April 8 White Coat event. She told the Class of 2017, “Think of the white coat as a cloak of compassion. You now represent the healthcare professional that patients look to for answers. The white coat is a symbol of respect. It represents the transition between being a student and being a professional in our world. Celebrate how far you have come and how far you will go.”
Dean John Murphy made opening remarks and then the keynote address was delivered by Milap Nahata. Nahata directs the Institute of Therapeutic Innovations and Outcomes at The Ohio State University, where he is professor emeritus of pharmacy at the College of Pharmacy and professor emeritus of pediatrics and internal medicine at the College of Medicine. He offered the Class of 2017 four guidelines for success: “First, discover your inner passion. Our purpose may give us direction, but it is our passion that will help us achieve our goals. Second, nurture your curiosity for learning. Keep learning to help your patients achieve the best outcomes. Next, become a serving leader. Focus on the growth and well-being of people and communities. Humility and niceness are strengths, not weaknesses. As Hippocrates said, ‘I would rather know the person who has the disease than the disease the person has.’ Finally, enjoy a fulfilled life both professionally and personally. Take care of yourself. Life is about peace, love and happiness. Do your best and don’t worry about the rest.”
Jessica Browne, Class of 2017 representative, thanked Nahata by presenting him with a plaque from the class and by telling him, “Your words and your career are an inspiration to us all.”
Then came the part of the program the students' families and friends had been waiting for: the Class of 2017 formally donned their long white coats. To cheers and camera flashes, Dean Murphy called the students, eight or nine at a time, to come to the front of the stage where faculty members whom the class had chosen helped them on with their coats.
As the students stood on risers in their new coats, Theodore Tong, associate dean, led them in reciting the Pharmacist's Pledge of Professionalism.
Browne then delivered her remarks as class representative. In part, she said, "These past three years have taught us that being a pharmacist is so much more than counting pills. We are health care professionals and patient advocates. I have no doubt in our ability to be successful as we transition from our didactic courses to applying this knowledge on fourth year rotations. Congratulations to the Class of 2017 and good luck!"
The White Coat Ceremony at the College of Pharmacy was initiated by the members of the Class of 2002 and first performed on April 30, 2001.
To see more photos of the 2016 ceremony, view the college's White Coat 2016 Flickr album.