Physician Assistant Studies program holds White Coat Ceremony
The White Coat Ceremony marks the start of intensive clinical learning experiences for the 38 members of the program's Class of 2018.
One by one on Friday, the 38 members of Elon University's Physician Assistant Studies program walked forward to put on a new white lab coat, and step into the intensive clinical phase of a path to becoming a health care provider.
Surrounded in the Sacred Space of the Numen Lumen Pavilion by family, friends and the faculty who are helping them become skilled and caring physician assistants, the Class of 2018 celebrated its achievements thus far, and prepared to dive into the next step in their educational journey. The program's White Coat Ceremony is considered a rite of passage for those studying to become physician assistants, as well as a commitment to being a skilled and caring provider in the future.
"By accepting your white coat, you make a commitment to transform yourself into a health care professional in whom patients will place their trust," said Elon University Provost Steven House, one of a number of speakers to offer words of guidance, congratulations and celebration during the Dec. 9 ceremony. "The White Coat Ceremony is a right of passage welcoming you into the next phase in your journey."
The Class of 2018 arrived at Elon to begin the 27-month program, with the first phase centered on academic medicine and establishing a foundation of medical knowledge. Following the White Coat Ceremony, the focus shifts to clinical medicine and practical experience, with students spending the bulk of their time working with patients and immersed in the caregiving environment.
In his keynote address, Dr. Scott Bennett, an ear, nose and throat physician with Alamance ENT, offered his thoughts about how to remain centered on the patient as a provider, and how to balance those elements of life outside of work with the responsibility and effort of being a physician assistant. Bennett framed his talk, titled "So you have superpowers and a cool costume — now what?," within the lessons he's learned as a lifelong collector of comic books, particularly Spiderman editions.
He advised them to "never forget you are there to take care of your patient first," and to persevere when times become difficult and they doubt themselves. Bennett offered advice about how and when to share pieces of themselves with patients, and how to preserve those relationships and priorities when the work day is done.
"Of course, we are not superheroes," Bennett said. "We just happen to work in a field that has the potential to make a major impact on someone's life, even with the most simple of decisions. That special status and trust that we are bestowed by the patients who come to us is a solemn gift. With great power comes great responsibility."
Patti Ragan, program director and associate professor, said the faculty had learned a lot about this class of students since they started in January, and said they had built a "safety net" to help support each other while achieving "amazing" accomplishments. "You truly are a very, very special class," she said.
Clad in their new white coats, the class recited the Physician Assistant Professional Oath, and then took the opportunity to share their appreciation for those who had helped them get this far. Speaking to the crowd, Class President Graham Brown and Vice President Sophia Caccavale recounted how the past 11 months have been marked by long hours, big challenges, but also humor and a growing bond among them.
"We all walked in that first day strangers, and now each and every one of you are my family," Brown said. "We will take our experiences this year and take them into actual practice."
The Class of 2018 is the fourth class for Elon's Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program, and is moving to the next phase of its education at a time when the program itself has taken steps forward. In August, the program achieved a major milestone with recognition and continued accreditation by The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, the national accrediting body.
The Class of 2018: