PA White Coat Ceremony Marks Important Milestone for Students
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PA White Coat Ceremony Marks Important Milestone

December 12, 2022

During their first year of PA school, physician assistant students take part in a symbolic rite of passage—the White Coat Ceremony— which marks the transition from concentrating on oneself as a student to concentrating on the patient.

What is a White Coat Ceremony?

The White Coat Ceremony was established in 1993 at Columbia University by Dr. Arnold Gold and the Gold Foundation as a way to welcome first-year students to the practice of healthcare. Gold, a Columbia University professor and clinician for more than 50 years, launched his foundation in 1988 in an effort to address what he saw as a diminishing lack of connection between clinicians and their patients. The White Coat Ceremony promotes the compassion and humanism for which Dr. Gold was recognized throughout his career.

What happens at a White Coat Ceremony?

A female physician assistant student dons her PA White Coat during the PA White Coat Ceremony.A central component of the White Coat Ceremony is the emphasis on the importance of humanism in healthcare. During the ceremony, students pledge to perform their duties with honesty and dedication. This Pledge of Professionalism also includes vows to provide compassionate and effective care of patients, contribute to an improved community, treat all patients equally and actively seek to expand their knowledge and skills. The Pledge identifies the health, safety, welfare and dignity of all human beings as a PA’s primary responsibility.

Rebekah Thomas, PharmD, PA-C, BCPS, BC-ADM, the assistant director of PCOM’s Physician Assistant Studies program and PCOM Georgia site director, explained the ceremony is an important step in the process of becoming a healthcare practitioner.

“The White Coat Ceremony presents an opportunity early in a student's healthcare career to determine the character qualities that they desire to exemplify in their daily interactions with patients and commit to continually grow and strive to be that individual,” she said.

Why is the White Coat Ceremony important?

The white coat is not simply an article of clothing—it symbolizes the responsibility each practitioner has to provide superior care and compassion for their patients.

“The White Coat Ceremony symbolizes entry into a profession that prioritizes service above self,” said Laura Levy, DHSC, PA-C, professor and chair, PA studies at PCOM. “Those who wear it have the privilege of caring for another human being, and making a positive impact in the lives of a patient and their family.”

Jay Feldstein, DO ‘81, PCOM president and CEO, emphasized the service orientation of the profession during PCOM’s 25th annual White Coat Ceremony.

“The white coat is about patient care, putting the patient first. You are in a service profession, here to take care of patients,” he said. “If you put the patient first, everything else takes care of itself.”

About the Physician Assistant Studies program at PCOM

PCOM's PA program provides a comprehensive academic and clinical medical education to prepare students for their professional roles as Physician Assistants. Students may enroll at either our Suwanee, Georgia location, or our main campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. PCOM offers students a holistic view of health care—one that considers all areas of well being and provides the opportunity to study and collaborate with students from a variety of medical-related disciplines.

Disclaimer: This article features AI-generated audio.