The annual event allows first year physician assistant students to publicly declare their intention to practice medicine.
Twenty-six members of the Georgia Campus – Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (GA-PCOM) physician assistant (PA) studies class of 2020 received their white coats on August 23, 2018, at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, Georgia.
Prior to the ceremony, PA student Saniya Ahmed said, “It’s our day now. It’s a privilege to be a part of this amazing program.”
The traditional event, attended by family, friends and faculty members, is an opportunity for first year PA students to publicly declare their intention to practice medicine. The PA students each received their white coats which symbolize many critical aspects of the students’ medical education, according to Assistant Professor and Department of PA Studies Georgia site director Rebekah Thomas, PharmD, PA-C, BCPS, BC-ADM.
The white coat “has become a standard of professionalism and caring and a visual reminder of the trust we as physician assistants must earn from our patients,” Dr. Thomas said. She presented the students with their first challenge. “Determine the character qualities that you desire to exemplify in your daily interactions with patients and commit to continually grow and strive to be that individual,” she said.
Alanna Viken, PA-C, a member of GA-PCOM’s first PA graduating class of 2018 addressed the students. “The people you’re sitting next to are going to help you get through times when you know you rocked an exam, the stressful times, and the times when you doubt yourself the most. I encourage you to learn from each other every single day, boost each other’s morale, and be a good colleague and friend.”
During her time in PA school, she said, “I’ve gained confidence in my abilities and knowledge, learned to function under stress, met some amazing doctors, NPs, PAs, and nurses along the way. I’ve learned right from wrong and that you can go far with a smile, a firm handshake, kindness and hard work.”
“With all of the stress and craziness, PA school is worth it,” she said. “Keep in mind, the clock is ticking and you have two years to get to the finish line.”
The students heard from Ronald Sanders III, PA-C, an emergency medicine provider at DeKalb Medical Center where he serves as a preceptor for both GA-PCOM and Emory University PA students. He described his love for every aspect of the profession and advised the students to one day give back to the PA profession by precepting a student.
Laura Levy, DHSc, PS-C, program director and chairperson of the physician assistant studies program advised the students on what to keep in the pockets of their new white coats. Aside from necessary supplies like a reflex hammer, measuring tape, penlight, tongue blades and cell phone, she noted that the heaviest, but most important items to keep in their pockets are courage, endurance, humility and kindness.
“Please try and remember that while illness and death may become familiar to you, it is not to those who know and love your patient.”
With a smile, Dr. Levy advised the audience members, “You are about to become involved in medical education as teachers of sorts…in short, you are about to endure the longest and most thorough medical exams of your entire lives. The students will thank you and eventually their patients will benefit from the teaching that you provide.”
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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