The White Coat Ceremony celebrated the Elon Master of Physician Assistant Studies Class of 2022, which has completed its first year of the program and will now transition to clinical training.
Thirty-seven members of the Class of 2022 in Elon University’s Physician Assistant Studies program took the next step in their journey to becoming physician assistants during the White Coat Ceremony on Nov. 19 in McKinnon Hall.
“The White Coat Ceremony marks the transition of academic medicine to one of clinical practice,” said Melissa Murfin, director of curriculum and instruction for the Department of Physician Assistant Studies. “It reminds us that medicine is practiced most effectively when dispensed with compassion, humility and the gift of healing.
Being a PA is a gift, Murfin said, and as a PA, students should remember that the care of their patients, their families and themselves are paramount.
Housed within the School of Health Sciences, the Elon PA program is a 24-month, full-time degree that 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.
“Class of 2022 – you made it,” said Becky Neiduski, dean of the School of Health Sciences, to the PA candidates before they received their white coats. “The white coat you’ll receive today is a symbol that we believe in you. We believe that you have completed your didactic requirements, we believe you’re ready to advance your learning and that you’re ready to represent Elon University in the community and in clinical environments.”
Neiduski also asked the Class of 2022 students to pause and take a moment to express gratitude to the people that have helped them along the way – their instructors, their loved ones and their fellow classmates.
“As your dean, I’ve witnessed your impact on the School of Health Sciences on campus and in our community. From inclusive excellence initiatives to the Open Door Clinic of Alamance County, you have already shown your community an incredible capacity to make a difference,” she said. “For that, I’m grateful for each of you.”
Katie Woodlee G’17 delivered the keynote address and told the students, who she has also been teaching, that they are ready. Despite going out into the world ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, students will still be able to make their mark on the world, she said. “Your knowledge, fresh perspective, energy and drive will shape the future of health care as we continue to adapt and heal,” Woodlee said, who is a physician assistant with Atrium Health in Charlotte.
Woodlee offered advice to the students that she wishes she had received several years ago when she was in their shoes, telling them to be ready to make mistakes. “Perfectionism is one of the unspoken prerequisites for PA school,” she said. “There are going to be missteps, perceived failures and blunders on the road ahead.”
She also let students know that they must ensure their mental health and wellbeing is a number one priority. “As a medical provider, you cannot draw from a well of compassion, empathy and kindness if you don’t spend time filling it first,” Woodlee said.
Finally, she suggested that the Class of 2022 change its definition of success. As students, they have measured success through a plethora of benchmarks in their academic careers, she said, but going forward, how they’ll gauge success will be different.
“You are in now for one huge, open-note, essay-style exam that will last for the rest of your life,” Woodlee said. “There will be so many ups and downs along the way, but my sincerest hope for you is that you’ll be kind to yourself and recognize the magnitude of what you bring to the world every day simply by being you.”
After the students received their white coats, Associate Professor of Physician Assistant Studies Antoinette Polito lead the reciting of the Physician Assistant Professional Oath for the Class of 2022.
Class Vice President Emily Griffith G’22 said that the past year has been a whirlwind of emotion and feelings, and that sentiment has been shared by her classmates.
But with the support of her classmates, family and professors during that time have been the driving force for reaching this pivotal moment in her PA school process.
“Over the past 11 months … we have studied for, stressed over and made our way through 110 assessments. We have learned about the etiologies, signs and symptoms, diagnostic students and treatments of over 1,050 conditions,” Griffith said. “However, because of the people in this room, we have learned so much more than any book, PowerPoint or lecture could ever teach us.”
Class President Evan Williams said the class has grown incredibly close in the past year. As they all go their separate ways for clinical training and eventual practice, he said he has no reservations about the great things they all will achieve.
“The intelligence and compassion in our cohort are pervasive and transformative,” Williams said. “I have no doubt that each of us will change health care for the better.”
Elon Master of Science in Physician Assistant Students Class of 2022
Sarah Angelina Akihary
Christy Jean Mattern