For the first time at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, incoming physical therapy students participated in a white coat ceremony, a symbolic rite of passage witnessed by family and friends that signifies students’ entry into a health-care profession.
The ceremony Thursday, Aug. 18, at the Farrell Learning and Teacher Center involved presenting white coats to 88 students entering the Program in Physical Therapy. The group is the university’s largest physical therapy class to date. Earlier this year, the program was ranked No. 1 in physical therapy by U.S. News & World Report.
“Students, family, friends, staff and faculty all appreciated this important rite of passage,” said Gammon Earhart, PhD, director of the Program in Physical Therapy.
Since the 1990s, the celebration has become commonplace in U.S. medical schools, including Washington University, where first-year physicians-in-training receive their white coats before medical school classes begin.
“Last year, our students inquired during the first semester about the possibility of having a white coat ceremony for new physical therapy students,” Earhart said. “Those students are now entering their second year of study, so we planned a ceremony where they participated by presenting white coats to the incoming class.”
Together, the classes recited a professional oath.
“This is my life’s passion,” said Hannah Steele, a first-year student in the program. “To be surrounded by others who feel the same way was incredible.”
First-year student Jaimie Albert agreed: “I’ve spent years working hard to get to this point. We all have. The White Coat Ceremony made me feel like I was a part of something big and important.”