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Incoming physical therapy students participate in first White Coat Ceremony

This year's entering class is the prestigious program’s largest ever

by Kristina SauerweinAugust 25, 2016

Robert Boston

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.

Second-year physical therapy student Torey Bird helps first-year student Krista Zerrusen into a white coat at the ceremony on the Medical Campus.Robert Boston
Second-year physical therapy student Torey Bird helps first-year student Krista Zerrusen into a white coat at the ceremony on the Medical Campus.

“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.

Second-year physical therapy student Luke Mayer (left) celebrates at the White Coat Ceremony with Keaton Kong, a first-year student in the program.Robert Boston
Second-year physical therapy student Luke Mayer (left) celebrates at the White Coat Ceremony with Keaton Kong, a first-year student in the program.

“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.”

Second-year physical therapy student Gina Malito helps first-year student Elaina Stover into her white coat. Robert Boston
Second-year physical therapy student Gina Malito helps first-year student Elaina Stover into her white coat.

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.”

Students in the Program in Physical Therapy gather at the program's first-ever White Coat Ceremony.Robert Boston
Students in the Program in Physical Therapy gather at the program’s first-ever White Coat Ceremony.