PA students receive white coats at memorable inaugural ceremony

The Charter Class of the USF Health Physician Assistant (PA) program made their commitment to the profession during the inaugural White Coat Ceremony on May 26 at the USF Gibbons Alumni Center.

During the event, the Class of 2019 took the oath and received their first white coats in front of friends, family, guests and USF Health leaders – marking the beginning of a remarkable journey into the PA program at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

The Charter Class of the USF Health Physician Assistant (PA) Program.

Charles J. Lockwood, MD, MHCM, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, welcomed the PA inaugural cohort and congratulated them for entering into one of the fastest growing careers in medicine.

Charles J. Lockwood, MD, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, speaks to students and attendees at the inaugural PA white coat ceremony.

“We’re delighted to have assembled our first-ever group of compassionate and brilliant PA candidates,” Dr. Lockwood said. “This future belongs to you and it all starts here today. The white coat you will receive is not only a uniform, not only a marker for the beginning of your course as a physician assistant, but a well-recognized symbol of trust and understanding – a commitment to provide great patient care, and also to accept great personal responsibility.”

Dr. Lockwood also recognized donors for their continuous support and contribution to the USF Health PA program, and who sponsored 100 percent of the white coats for this Class of 2019.

“Thank you to all the people who generously donated to our White Coat PA Scholarship fund and are supporting the PA students’ academic success,” Dr. Lockwood said.

The USF Health PA Program was established to help meet the growing demand for health care providers, especially those in primary care. The 30 students in the charter class were chosen from more than 1,500 applicants (50 to 1 ratio, or 2 percent). Students officially began classes on May 8.

“It’s incredible to be one of the few select students to be part of the Charter Class of 2019,” said Katherine Lucas, PA student. “USF Health is a reputable institution and well-known in the community, so to be part of this program is a really special feeling.”

During the inaugural ceremony, Todd Wills, MD, assistant dean and program director for the USF Health Physician Assistant Program, discussed the importance of the white coat and its significance as a sign of respect and compassion between patients and clinicians.

Todd Wills, MD, assistant dean and program director for the USF Health Physician Assistant Program, discusses the importance of the white coat and its significance for PA students.

“Today, you become our colleagues as we share a high interest in the well-being of our patients and the health of our community,” Dr. Wills said. “Your journey to get here has been long, and the journey ahead will be even longer. But with the support of USF Health faculty, staff, leaders and peers, this will be the beginning of an outstanding career and a day to be remembered.”

Students then one-by-one walked to the stage to receive the white coat — taking a symbolic step on their journey toward becoming PAs. Along with the white coat, they also received a special white and gold lapel pin, which signifies the students’ commitment to the care and dedication of their future patients. Beaming with pride and excitement, PA student Shivani Shah said the ceremony was an unforgettable moment.

Students receive their white coats.

“This is the moment I’ve been waiting for a very long time,” Shah said. “It will be a tough two years, but today pushes us to work hard and commit to the wonderful journey of becoming physician assistants.”

Before the end came for the ceremony, which was in part sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, students recited their Physician Assistant Oath, a students’ pledge to follow the highest professional code of ethics and always make the patients’ health, safety and privacy their highest priority.

PA students recite their Physician Assistant Oath.

“Your job here at USF and going forward is not only to become a great physician assistant, but also to grow as a person who engages in routine self-reflection and one who goes out of your way to establish trust, respect and a sense of belonging among and between all of your unique selves here at USF,” said Gretchen Koehler, PhD, senior associate dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and assistant vice president of USF Health.

Gretchen Koehler, Ph.D. senior associate dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and assistant vice president of USF Health, makes closing remarks.

The Charter Class of 2019 includes:

Jason Abraham
Ahlam Abukhdeir
Tina Agostinelli
Kevin Allison
Sophia Andera-Cato
Shannon Aurelius
Tiffany Bermudez
Brittany Bianchi
Ellen Davis
Andrew Dinh
Diana Fizette
Carlee Freed
Elisabeth Givens
Jared Goodwin
Nadia Hasan
Kyle Holsted
Jensen Jozil
Ivana Karaban
Ayesha Kietzman
Katherine Lucas
Michael McMeekin
John Nguyen
Taylor Panichello
Mollie Pleasanton
Savannah Poor
Kelly Powell
Kathryn Rudibaugh
Shivani Shah
Alysen Spencer
Zachary Ulshafer

Story by Vjollca Hysenlika, USF Health Marketing and Communications
Photos by Frederick Coleman, USF Health Marketing and Communications