Physical Therapy students commit to serving patients first at annual white coat ceremony

Standing before friends and family, 48 USF Doctor of Physical Therapy students promised to put their patients first, be responsible and accountable, and to collaborate with their health care team members as part of the Commitment to Professionalism Ceremony, held Oct. 20 in the USF School of Music Concert Hall.

The Class of 2019 took the oath and received their first white coats as part of the annual ceremony for incoming students to the USF Health School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences.


Setting the tone of an interprofessional approach to the educational experience the students will have at USF Health, as well as in their careers, was William S. Quillen, PT, PhD, SCS, FACSM, professor and director of the USF Health School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences and senior associate dean for the Morsani College of Medicine.

“Physical therapy is everywhere across the lifespan,” Dr. Quillen said. “From pediatrics to geriatrics, from the intensive care units to outpatient ambulatory musculoskeletal orthopaedic care, we are part of the team with our medicine, pharmacy, athletic training, public health, and nursing colleagues. We believe team care is the best care. When USF Health came together some 10 years ago, we said together we would make life better. USF Health is where people come together in an IPE (interprofessional education) model for the future of health care.”

Dr. William S. Quillen

Dr. William S. Quillen

This year’s freshmen students were an exceptional bunch, representing the most selective class to date. Chosen from nearly 1,400 applicants, the acceptance rate equates to about a 3 percent chance of getting into the School. In addition, the average GPA for the Class of 2019 is above the national average for other DPT programs.

“So we have started out with an intelligent, highly talented class,” said Bryan A. Bognar, MD, MPH, FACP, professor of medicine and vice dean for MCOM Office of Educational Affairs.

“I am confident they will excel in this next stage of their own professional development at the USF School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences. The future of health care belongs to the providers who put their patients first and who make every day an opportunity to deliver care that is personalized, effective, and efficient. Enjoy this year and embrace the collaborative learning opportunities that the next few years will bring. They will be cherished moments. Welcome to the USF Health family, where we are making life better!”

Dr. Bryan Bognar

Dr. Bryan Bognar

In addition to faculty based in the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, leaders from other areas of USF Health congratulated the Class of 2019 and offered them words of advice:

Deborah Dewaay, MD, FACP, associate dean for Undergraduate Medical Education for USF Health Morsani College of Medicine: Noted the meaning of ceremonies such as this, and how they offer a public display of our intentions and an opportunity to reflect on who we inspire to be. Intention without action is worthless, she told the students.

Amy Schwartz, PharmD, associate dean of Academic and Clinical Affairs for the USF College of Pharmacy: Spoke of her anticipation of working with physical therapy students as part of the interprofessional learning opportunities USF Health offers, including working at the BRIDGE Clinic, among others.

Joann Strobbe, MsEd, senior associate vice president for Administration, Finance and Technology and chief financial officer for USF Health, and vice dean for Administration, Finance and Technology for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine: Reflected on the code of ethics that is the foundation for the financial profession, saying that the medical profession offered the same opportunity through oaths of commitment, such as the one these DPT students would be taking that night.

Jay Wolfson, DrPH, JD, associate vice president of Health Law, Policy and Safety, and Distinguished Service Professor of Public Health, Medicine and Pharmacy: Reminded the students of their obligation to the community they serve, asking them to remember that their work is not just about health, but about the health of the community. Don’t lose that trust.

Keynote speaker Nancy R. Kirsch, PT, DPT, PhD, FAPTA, professor and director of the Physical Therapy Program at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, shared her approached to staying on track in her profession by using the acronym PIE – passion, integrity and excellence – that represent pillars of professionalism.

Dr. Nancy Kirsch

Dr. Nancy Kirsch

“Passion is most likely what drove you to begin with,” Dr. Kirsch said. “That passion doesn’t waive – it increases, gets stronger, and keep growing. Integrity is the bedrock and we owe it to our patients, to each other and to ourselves. Excellence is how we assess and determine what our outcomes; are we competent. Be competent and excel beyond the minimum. We improve the skills we have and we develop the skills we lack.

“In PT, each of us has the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our patients, in the growth and maturation of our institutions, and in our society. I invite each of you to claim your piece of the PIE. Keep your focus on the patient as central to all that you do. Commit to strengthening the profession you are inheriting. Pledge to leave those who follow you a profession well-rounded in passion, built on integrity, and maintained and grown with excellence. Aspire to make tonight the beginning of an invigorating, productive, and exciting career. There is no better than the one you have chosen.”

Perspective on the symbolism of the ceremony taking place was given by Laure Lee “Dolly” Swisher, PT, MDiv, PhD, FAPTA, professor and coordinator of professional education and assistant dean for Interprofessional Education for the USF Health School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Dr. Dolly Swisher.

Dr. Dolly Swisher

“When we started this ceremony, there was a shared interest among the faculty, staff and students all of whom wanted to develop something to promote excellence in professionalism in our community,” Dr. Swisher said. “The originators of the event really wanted to emphasize that is was an event about professionalism. So they chose not call there ceremony a ‘white coat’ ceremony, but to call it a Commitment to Professionalism Ceremony because it’s not really only about the white coat. It’s about an interchange the white coat may signify, and about professionalism and, most of all, about commitment.”

In addition to presenting white coats, the Commitment to Professionalism Ceremony announced the recipients to several of the School’s scholarships and awards. These included:

Spirit of Interprofessionalism Award: Lucy Guerra, MD MPH FACP FHM, associate professor of medicine, associate director of the internal medicine residency program for USF Health, and director of the Division of General Internal Medicine, as well as a faculty director for the student-directed USF Health BRIDGE Clinic.

Gregory R. Nicolosi Commitment to Professionalism Award: Kelsey Ulliman (DPT Class of 2018)

Johnene M. Vorholy Memorial Scholarship: Shoshanna Rahming (DPT Class of 2017)

Kurtzman Scholarship: Rachel Harrington (DPT Class of 2018)

Future Professional Scholarship: Kyle Proctor (DPT Class of 2017) and Ciara Hall (DPT Class of 2018)

Tiedemann Circle of Motion Scholarship: Zachary Alfonso (DPT Class of 2017) and Sarah Norris (DPT Class of 2018)

CORA Scholarship: Erica Larson (DPT class of 2019)

The USF Health School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences Class of 2019

Katherine Perkins; Aliya Scalamogna; Evan Renaud; Kyle Schindler; Exor Serrano Arce; Rasa Staniulyte; Alise DuBay; Alisha Espinosa; Katie Essick; Sarah Flanagan; Lindsey Foreman; Jordan Lindblom; April Mansfield; Marian Becker; Karri Chestnut; Ryan Delsignore; Garrett Dietz; Casey Chiarello; Brittany Denny; Barrett Barnes; Sierra Bahr; Noela Lalime; Erica Larson; Marc Leggett; Angeline León; Lauren Perrotta; Emily Franco; Roland Gaddy; Christopher Gai; Devina Gilmore; Dayna Hernreich; MaKenzie Judy; Kelly Jutras; Brandi Koehler; Karissa Kortum; David Kroger; Chloe Moreno; Nicholas Rietveld; Dennis Rinaldi III; Alyssa Santos; Matthew Sarver; Justin Pittman; Eric Schindler; Paul McEuen, Jr.; Sara Stannard; Brendan White; Elizabeth Winsor; Lauren Zilke.