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Physician Assistant White Coat Ceremony

While most students are reporting to campus to begin their coursework, fall marks a different kind of beginning for the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences’ Physician Assistant (PA) class of 2012. The class was presented with their long white coats at a ceremony in Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre August 11. Long white coats replace the short white coats they were given at the beginning of their program, and symbolize the end of their didactic and clinical training and the beginning of their professional careers as graduate Physician Assistants.

The student-organized event was an opportunity for families and friends to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating PAs, as well as give the faculty one last opportunity to assert the level of responsibility involved in caring for people’s health and wellbeing. Lisa Alexander, Ed.D., Interim Chair and Program Director for the PA Program, and Joseph Bocchino, Ed.D., M.B.A., Interim Senior Associate Dean for Health Sciences, opened the event. Bocchino called the event “an important day in the lives of these students, where they transition from being a graduate to a full professional.”

This was also an opportunity to recognize several people who influenced the PA Class of 2012. Stephen Robie, PA ’12, was presented with the Outstanding PA Student Award for his commitment to moving the field forward and upholding the mission of the program. Brad Moore, M.D., M.P.H., Medical Director for the PA program, was presented with a plaque in recognition of his 16 years of service as he moves on to the next phase of his career at the GW Medical Faculty Associates. Moore noted that working with the PA students was always one of his favorite parts of his job because of their constant curiosity, enthusiasm, and professionalism.

Roderick Hooker, Ph.D., PA-C, was selected by the students as the keynote speaker. The widely published, health service researcher addressed the group, saying that being a PA is one of the finest professions in the world as it offers the flexibility to switch specialties while continuing to grow a career. “If I had to do it over again, I would not change a thing,” he said. Hooker noted that our nation currently faces a shortage of primary care providers and that PAs will help to bridge the gap. He said that a career as a P A is not only rewarding, but also recession-proof. Hooker closed his remarks with a reminder of the enormous responsibility involved in their profession. He beseeched them to stay true to the professionalism that is needed for their new role, saying “the torch is passed to enhance the lives of people and make them well.”

The students donned new white coats and walked across the stage, taking the opportunity to thank their faculty members for their dedication and support. Meanwhile, families, friends, and classmates cheered with encouragement as they witnessed their loved ones transform from students to health care professionals.

In closing, the students recited the PA oath, committing themselves to providing dignity to all humans and providing equality for their patients. They pledged to continue to learn, collaborate with other medical professionals, and strive to improve their community.