The White Coat Ceremony celebrated the Master of Physician Assistant Studies Class of 2021, which has completed its first year of the program and will now transition to clinical studies.
The 38 members of Elon’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies Class of 2021 marked the beginning of a new chapter in their academic journeys during the program’s White Coat Ceremony on Dec. 13.
“This ceremony reminds us that medicine is practiced most effectively when dispensed with compassion, humility and the gift of healing,” said Melissa Murfin, associate professor and chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies. Murfin addressed a room full of students, their families and friends inside the Sacred Space of the Numen Lumen Pavilionf as the class celebrated the completion of its first year in the program.
The Elon PA program, along with the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, is housed within the School of Health Sciences. The 24-month, full-time program prepares graduates to think critically and act skillfully to meet expanding health care needs in local and global communities. After 12 months of classroom work, students receive their white coats and transition to the clinical portion of their studies.
Before students were given their white coats, they heard a keynote address from Dr. Diane Armao, adjunct assistant professor of physician assistant studies. Armao reminded students of the duty that comes with their coats.
“Taking care of patients is a calling, and the practice of medicine is an art,” Armao said.
She highlighted the devotion displayed by members of the class to their studies and their willingness to “roll with the punches” as traits that will one day lead them to success in the field. Armao also left students with an important lesson, explaining that the care they deliver must be professional, but also personal.
“Today, I tell you that your patients will see your white coat and what you do,” Armao said. “You must show them your white coat and who you are. And so, to our illustrious PA Class of 2021, answer the call, slide your arms through the sleeves, throw your shoulders back and step into the ring. Your white coat is your character.”
Following Armao’s address, each member of the Class of 2021 was called upon and awarded a white coat with an Elon PA seal on the sleeve. Students also recited the Physician Assistant Professional Oath in which they pledged to “hold as my primary responsibility the health, safety, welfare and dignity of all human beings.”
Class President Celeste Cantwell G’21 reflected on the group’s first year together, thanking faculty, staff and families for their support along the way. Cantwell said the ceremony was also a time to look forward as the group prepares to take what it has learned in the classroom and use it in their field.
She explained that the white coats are “heavy” because of the responsibility that comes with them.
“These coats carry this weight with them, and it represents the start of a life-long journey and a path on which we have the privilege and the power to impact the lives of others,” she said. “So, as you sit here in these coats, let the privilege of that weight wash over you.”
As students continue their studies alongside practitioners in their field of study, they will work to complete their second and final year of the Elon PA program. Once they meet their requirements, students will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to care for patients’ physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs.
“We feel confident that you will be an advocate for and make a difference in the lives of your patients,” Murfin said. “It is an exciting time to see you move on to this next step in your journey. We are proud of you, and we believe in you.”
The Class of 2021 is the seventh class for Elon’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program, which received recognition and continued accreditation by The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, the national accrediting body.
Elon Master of Physician Assistant Studies Class of 2021
Audrey De Los Reyes
Jillian Van Essendelft