Physical Therapy Program Hosts White Coat Convocation

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Physician Therapy student wearing white coats recite from a pamphlet

During the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) Physical Therapy (PT) Program Convocation on Oct. 28, the excellence, professionalism, and achievements of PT students and residents were celebrated.

“This is an important time to celebrate,” said GW PT Program Director Ellen Costello, PhD, PT. “It’s PT month in October and we’re welcoming our newly admitted students.”

Costello congratulated the new crop of 45 future PTs on successfully completing the long admission process and journey to PT school. “I can tell you this is a very talented group of students, and we are tremendously pleased they have joined us here on this professional journey,” she noted. Senior Associate Dean for Health Sciences Reamer Bushardt, PharmD, PA-C, also spoke at the event, focusing his remarks on professionalism.

Among health care providers, he said, professionalism is “critically important to how we develop a trusting and ethical relationship with patients, our colleagues, and the communities we serve. We’re quick to say what’s unprofessional, but we don’t always define and describe what professional is. … I think it’s important because it’s an identity we wear just like these white coats.”

Bushardt charged the students with putting patients first, adhering to high ethical standards, being accountable for their work, showing commitment to scholarship, and striving for excellence.

The Excellence Lecture was presented by Amelia Arundale, DPT, PhD, physical therapist and biomechanist with the Brooklyn Nets. 

Arundale gave a talk full of heart and humor to the friends, family, and students attending the event, drawing on her own uneven path toward becoming a PT to offer advice and insight into the profession. 

“Regardless of where you are in your PT journey, you’ve probably heard this: that it’s like drinking out of a fire hydrant,” Arundale said to chuckles from the attendees. “There’s so much information, there’s so much to do, that to-do list will never get shorter, it only gets longer. But there’s so many things you can do in this career.”

Arundale dreamed of working for a soccer team in the English Premier League and never thought she’d end up in the NBA with the Nets, but all her experiences brought her to where she is today. She said her motivation comes from working to help athletes better understand their bodies, how they move, and how they can optimize that to perform at their best. 

“That’s what drives me. I’d encourage you to think about [what drives you] and write it down,” she said. “Writing it down makes it tangible … so on a day when you ask ‘what am I doing?’ you can go back and see that.”

Arundale added that the students should find people who support them, both within the PT community and outside of the profession, step outside their comfort zones, network to grow professional connections and opportunities, and always make sure to take care of their own health.  

She ended her talk with homework for the new PT students:

“Go home and write down your passion, write down what motivates you so in December when you’re taking finals you have your ‘why.’ Go out and shake hands, take the opportunity to go to conferences and meet people. Take care of yourself while you’re doing that. … And within all that, find those little moments where you can lead.”

In addition to welcoming the newest members of the GW family, the ceremony also celebrated current students, residents, and alumni.

Margaret Plack, DPT, EdD, PT, professor of health, human function, and rehabilitation sciences at SMHS, presented the Excellence in Residency Mentorship Award to Meghan Moore, DPT, PT.

Two individuals who recently graduated from the Orthopaedic Residency Program, two from the Neurological Residency Program, and one graduate of the Pediatric Residency Program also received recognition during the ceremony from Dhinu Jayaseelan, PT, DPT, and Karen Goodman, PT, DPT, both assistant professors in the physical therapy program. 

After Arundale’s lecture, excellence awards were presented to the PT Classes of 2020 and 2021, and the PT Alumni Scholarship was announced.

Then came the PT Class of 2022’s turn to don their white coats, which they did at the front of the room witnessed by their classmates, teachers, family, and friends.

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