PCOM Physician Assistant and Physical Therapy Students Receive Symbolic White Coats
Wednesday, August 31st, 2022
The song “Heal the World” by Michael Jackson, sung by Alison Ritter (PA ’24), a student in the Physician Assistant Studies program at PCOM Georgia in Suwanee, marked the beginning of the Physician Assistant White Coat Ceremony held the morning of August 19, 2022, at the Gas South District in Duluth.
Thirty-two first-year PA students, members of the Class of 2024, received their white coats which PCOM Georgia PA Site Director Rebekah Thomas, PharmD, PA-C, said symbolize professionalism, integrity and the highest commitment to caring for the sick. She said, “It conveys respect and is a visual reminder of the trust we must earn from our patients.”
Later in the afternoon, 38 second-year doctor of physical therapy students, also members of the class of 2024, received their white coats as a symbol of “your transformative journey in becoming a healthcare professional,” Ruth Maher, PT, PhD, DPT, chair of the physical therapy program, said. “Your white coat is an everlasting symbol of the physical therapy profession’s purity of purpose – placing the interests of patients first and above self-interest. It’s a symbol of your integrity, trust and compassion in addressing the rights and needs of your patients.”
The two ceremonies, attended by family members, friends and faculty members, were a time of celebration and transitions for these future healthcare professionals.
Ritter, a first year PA student, expressed the excitement that her class feels about “starting our journey to become professionals in the medical field.” She said, “This ceremony represents our first step forward and marks the beginning of that journey.” As part of a close-knit class, she said, “We’re really excited, nervous and honored to be here with each other.”
Karlee Grab (DPT ’24), a second year physical therapy student and the representative for the physical therapy class of 2024, said her fellow students “have all worked very hard to be where we are.” She added, “Coming back from rotations has solidified the fact that we love this profession and that we want to do everything we can to help others and give back to our communities.”
A 2014 graduate of the PA program at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Tsitsi Masviba, MS, PA-C, addressed the physician assistant students. After working at the Georgetown University department of neurosurgery for eight years, she recently moved to Georgia and works as part of the neurosurgery and neurointerventional team in the Northeast Georgia Health System’s physician group.
She said, “You are officially becoming a part of a community that meets people at some of the lowest points in their life, but you are now being trained and will have the privilege, trust and honor to heal in your community.”
Remi Onifade, PT, DPT, provided remarks for the Doctor of Physical Therapy White Coat Ceremony. She serves as the clinic director at Team Rehabilitation Physical Therapy, is an adjunct professor at Morehouse College, and co-founded the National Association of Black Physical Therapists. In addition, she serves as the American Physical Therapy Association, Georgia chapter, vice president and the chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee.
Dr. Onifade urged the physical therapy scholars to “embrace change that is needed to improve diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in our society.”
Laura Levy, DHSC, PA-C, chair of the department of physician assistant studies, noted the traditional items that often serve dual purposes that fill the pockets of a healthcare professional’s white coat – a reflex hammer, measuring tape, penlight, tongue blades, cell phone, a blank notebook and hand sanitizer among others. “But the heaviest and most important items to keep in your pockets are courage, endurance, humility and kindness,” she said.
It turns out the lyrics of “Heal the World” were quite appropriate for the ceremony of the white coat.
“Heal the world/ Make it a better place/ For you and for me, and the entire human race/ There are people dying/ If you care enough for the living/ Make a better place for you and for me.”