White Coat Ceremony ‘lights a fire’ in new students

By Alex Branch

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Olivia Selby began her journey to becoming a physician assistant with a few steps onto the stage at Will Rogers Memorial Center Auditorium.

Onstage, the first-year UNT Health Science Center student was cloaked in a white coat, a symbol of trust between a provider and patient.

“Walking out on stage to be coated, all I could think about was the love and support that I have received before getting to this point,” she said. “Because of this moment, I am ready to step forward on my career path as a PA and serve my community with pride.”

Students from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, Physician Assistant Studies, Physical Therapy and the UNT System College of Pharmacy received white coats at the Aug. 23 ceremony. The event is a rite of passage that encourages students to fulfill a psychological contract for professionalism and empathy as future health care providers.

Family members and friends packed the auditorium to see loved ones wear their coat for the first time and swear a professional oath.

Jacob Hall, a 4th-year Pharmacy student, reflected on his own white coat after addressing the incoming pharmacy students at the ceremony.

“It was surreal looking out in the audience and seeing the first-year students,” he said.  “Just seeing where I was three years ago and how I have transformed. It was pretty amazing to know that’s the journey they are about to take.”

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Ellen Mundie, a first-year Physical Therapy student, said, “Putting on the white coat lit a fire inside of me.  I am humbled, excited and ready for the magnificent transformation that is to come.”

After the ceremony, the new students poured out of the auditorium where family members waited with flowers, balloons and cameras. Students and their families attended a cook-out on the UNTHSC lawn, where Provost Charles Taylor, PharmD, passed out paletas to incoming students.

Clarence Sparks, a first-year TCOM student from Midland, said that the white coat made him feel that he was officially a member of the UNTHSC family.

“Not only have I made it, but I am now part of something bigger,” Sparks said. “I am now part of the TCOM and UNTHSC family, and my actions going forward carry the weight of that.  For the rest of my life, I will work hard to continue to earn this privilege.”

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