PCOM Georgia Pharmacy and Medical Students Participate in Rite of Passage

Barbara Myers

Thursday, October 19th, 2023

Friday the 13th was a great October day for 179 PCOM Georgia first year pharmacy and medical students as they crossed the stage at the Gas South Convention Center in Duluth to receive their white coats, which symbolize professionalism, compassion and trust.

As their loved ones watched, Shawn Spencer, PhD, RPh, dean and chief academic officer of the PCOM School of Pharmacy, presided over the 10:30 a.m. ceremony, while Andrea Mann, DO, FAAP, dean and chief academic officer of the PCOM Georgia College of Osteopathic Medicine, led the 2:30 p.m. rite of passage.

In his remarks, Dr. Spencer said, “As you wear your white coat, hopefully it serves as a reminder that being conferred a doctor is more than a piece of paper and more than a career…I hope it serves as a reminder that you are making a difference in the lives of others, and in yourselves.”

Zachary Powell, PharmD ’23, a recent graduate who is currently a PGY1 pharmacy resident, addressed the student pharmacists. 

He said, “Although I just started my journey as a pharmacist, I can assure you that the long nights studying have been well worth the reward to have the opportunity to be a contributor to the health and safety of others and begin earning the trust of patients and healthcare professionals.”

Pharmacy Class Chair Jasper Dorsey (PharmD ’27) had the honor of speaking to his classmates about their newfound responsibilities.

“As we don these white coats, we not only embrace a new chapter in our education, but also accept the profound responsibilities that come with it. 

“Our white coats are not mere garments. They represent the trust that patients will place in us as caregivers, the integrity with which we will conduct ourselves, and the compassion we will show to those in our care.”

Three hours later, the Hughes ballroom, bedecked with floral arrangements in the college’s colors of blue, burgundy and gold, again filled up with family members and friends supporting the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine students.

Dean Mann addressed her students. She said, “The white coat placed on you today is a badge of honor, so to speak. It is your today and your future. 

“While wearing it, you will experience joy, challenge, hope, sadness, humor, frustration and determination. Over the next four years, we will watch you transform into outstanding osteopathic physicians who profoundly and genuinely care for each and every whole person.”

Wearing the white coat he received from PCOM Georgia as a student 16 years ago, Ankur Patel, DO ’07, RPh, the CEO of Southern Pain and Spine with four locations in Georgia, addressed the class of 2027.

He said, “While wearing this coat, you will be tasked with interviewing patients, examining patients, speaking with family members, and being an integral member of the entire medical care team.

“You must always hold this special privilege in highest regard, for patients and their families will be counting on you to help them make decisions, to be a trusted confidante, and to be a beacon of light and hope in their darkest hours.”

He then held up the white coats he received while a resident at SSM Health in St. Louis and as a fellow at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, each longer than the other signifying his educational journey. 

“You’re in for a wonderful ride!” he exclaimed. 

Kenton Gross (DO ’26), a second year DO student at PCOM Georgia, addressed his first year colleagues, reminding them of the love of their family members and friends.

“My prayer is that on your hardest day, during your most strenuous week, that their love reminds you that you aren’t alone and you are supported no matter where you go.”

He added, “The coat, in my mind, is a physical manifestation of the love that you all have. And each thread is a moment shared between you. 

“No matter your journey, each coat is made of the same tears, laughs and prayers. All coming together to become your armor and serve as a reminder during your time at PCOM.”