The clinician's white coat traditionally represents professionalism and humanism.
Georgia’s potential healthcare workforce was boosted by 211 members recently when PCOM Georgia students received their white coats in a 33-minute ceremony on December 29. The students include 139 Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine students, 40 Doctor of Physical Therapy students, and 32 Physician Assistant Studies students who are earning their Master of Science in Health Sciences.
Held online, the ceremony debuted and was viewed more than 3,000 times on Facebook and YouTube. Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine Provost Kenneth Veit, DO ‘76, MBA, called the event “particularly meaningful at a time when the members of our professions face unique challenges as frontline workers during a pandemic.”
Jay S. Feldstein, DO ‘81, PCOM president, welcomed the students to “an observance that marks a pivotal educational and professional milestone” and represents the world of clinical medicine. He said, “By donning the white coat, your world shifts to putting the patient first, a priority that must never waver throughout your professional career. When you put the patient first, everything else takes care of itself.”
Phillip Palmer, PT, PhD, chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, addressed the second year PT students. “We honor you because you have shown perseverance, patience and great potential as you endured the challenges of the classroom, dealt with the frustration of not being able to go to clinic, and shown resilience with our transition to virtual and hybrid learning models due to the pandemic.”
Joseph Kaczmarczyk, DO ‘82, MPH, MBA, interim dean and chief academic officer of PCOM Georgia, acknowledged that COVID-19 has affected everything, including white coat ceremonies, although the significance has not been diminished. He noted, however, that the meaning of the white coat, which traditionally focuses on professionalism and humanism, has been expanded due to the pandemic.
He said, “The practice of medicine always had and will continue to have inherent risks…which are more real now than ever before. Today, the white coat represents the willingness to accept those risks in service to others and to subordinate your needs to the needs of patients. The white coat now is evidence of service above self.”
Dr. Kaczmarczyk recalled the words of Sir William Osler, a 19th century medical educator, who said, “You are in this profession as a calling, not a business; as a calling which exacts from you at every turn self-sacrifice, devotion, love and tenderness to your fellow men.”
Students recited together their respective professions’ Pledge of Professionalism or their class mission statements. Just as in years past, family members and friends celebrated, but online instead of in person.
The ceremony was fitting for this time of COVID-19 which Laura Levy, DHsc, PA-C, chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, called the “greatest health crisis we may see in our lifetime.”
In addressing the students, Gregory McDonald, DO ‘89, dean of the School of Health Sciences, acknowledged that the current year has been challenging. He said, “As a society, we have dealt with the medical and economic issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have witnessed and experienced social unrest… But, yet, here you are!”
He spoke of the power and responsibility of the white coat, a responsibility that “cannot be taken lightly. You are not only representing yourself, but every other healthcare provider that treats patients.”
Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institute of higher education dedicated to the healthcare professions. The Suwanee, Georgia, campus is affiliated with Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine which has a storied history as a premier osteopathic medical school. PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing "a whole person approach to care," PCOM Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service to the wider community. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center, an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 678-225-7500.
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