Savannah Jones puts on her white coat during the Physician Assistant Studies program ceremony. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Physician Assistant Studies program holds first white coat ceremony

Apr 23, 2021
Kathryne Davis
Students in the Physician Assistant Studies program pose for a photo during their white coat ceremony. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

The Brenau University Physician Assistant Studies program held its first white coat ceremony on March 26 at the Brenau Downtown Center.

While the first ceremony looked differently without family members present, Julie Keena, chair of the Physician Assistant Studies program, and her team worked hard to make sure the students still had the opportunity to celebrate in person.

“We explored many options, including the covered tennis area, all kinds of outside options,” Keena said. “We felt for this year, the better option was to have it in the classroom, have it all virtual and available on Zoom for family members to participate.”

Keena said having the ceremony was important because it is when students take the physician assistant oath.

“Our philosophy is that the students need to have their white coat and the symbolism that goes with that and take that oath, pledging to provide compassionate care to the patients before they touch their first patient,” she said.

The ceremony was originally planned for earlier in the semester, as the students already worked with patients while administering COVID vaccines, but that was difficult due to restrictions. The students will now be ready with their white coats before supporting patients next semester during service learning and working at Cleveland Helping Hands.

The ceremony included a keynote speech from Rear Adm. Dr. Kenneth Mortisugu, former United States surgeon general.

“As physician assistants, donning the white coat not only symbolizes, but it manifests the power and the responsibility we assume,” he said. “The white coat signals to our patients that we have an authority born out of our scientific knowledge and experience, and they will respond by baring their innermost concerns to us as their helper in their health journey. It is our responsibility to exercise that trust and authority for the good of our patients, whom we must always put at the center of everything that we do.”

Sara Hammond, one of the students in the physician assistant program from Homosassa, Florida, said she enjoyed listening to Moritsugu’s speech and learned a lot from him about being in the medical field,

“It was a great honor and inspiration to have Dr. Moritsugu speak at the white coat ceremony,” she said. “He has such a distinguished career and has had a profound impact on the PA profession.”

Hammond was glad to have a ceremony and noted the importance of the oath and white coat.

“Wearing the white coat and taking the oath was a privilege and realization of the weight placed on my shoulders of becoming a PA and accepting the responsibilities that goes along with being a health care provider,” she said. “The white coat ceremony gave me an immense sense of pride as it was a representation of all of my accomplishments and the perseverance it took to get to this point.”