PA Class of 2020 Celebrates at White Coat Ceremony

The Class of 2020 Physician Assistant students celebrated the start of their journey into clinical care through the Boston University School of Medicine Physician Assistant (PA) Program at the annual White Coat Ceremony held July 17.

Surrounded by family, faculty and friends, they became the fifth PA student class to don their white coats at BUSM. Having learned how to complete a history and physical exam in their first semester, they received their white coats as a symbol of their progression to the clinical phase of their education.

The students were greeted by founding program Director Mary Warner, MMSc, PA-C, and addressed by David Coleman, MD, Wade Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine. “Today we celebrate the venerable tradition of the white coat,” Coleman said. “…The white coat should be more than what you wear, but that the white coat should be what’s within you. It should be a sense of selflessness; a sense of continuous personal and professional growth; a sense and commitment to working on interprofessional teams on behalf of your patients.”

The program received 2103 applications for this class and accepted 42 students. Of those, 30 matriculated at the White Coat Ceremony.

The keynote speaker was Carl Toney, PA, who served as the inaugural class white coat speaker and is the namesake of the Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants student society at BUSM. Mr. Toney is a 1979 graduate of the Duke University PA program who has had a long career in primary care, public health and public policy. His commitment to helping underserved populations is underscored by the positions he has held, including at the Georgia State Office of Rural Health and as Director of the HIV-AIDS and STD programs for the Maine Bureau of Health.

“It’s not just a jacket,” Toney said. “… It is the force that flows and helps us with our patients. … For some it represents knowledge. For some it represents power. For some it represents privilege. And all those things are true. But I also think it represents some things that are as important, if not more important … including all the issues around ‘help’ and extending our humanity to another individual.

“You cannot help the patient if you do not know the person,” Toney concluded.

Following the speakers, the students were called up individually and cloaked in their white coats. When all had received them, they recited the Physician Assistant Professional Oath, a summary statement of their professional duties and obligations, and celebrated the milestone with families and friends in attendance at a reception.

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