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School of Pharmacy and School of Dentistry First-Year Students Celebrate New Professions at White Coat Ceremonies on Sept. 9

It was an afternoon of tradition and pride at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and the University of Maryland School of Dentistry on Sept. 9, as both schools held their white coat ceremonies for their classes of 2017. For those studying health professions, the white coat ceremony is a very special and meaningful tradition in which the schools' faculty members welcome first-year students as colleagues in patient care.

University of Maryland School of Pharmacy DeanNatalie D. Eddington, PhD, FAAPS, FCP, welcomed 160 students and their families in the Medical School Teaching Facility (MSTF) auditorium at 3 p.m. that day. At 4 p.m., School of Dentistry Interim DeanMark A. Reynolds, DDS, PhD, MA, did the same for students from the dental hygiene Class of 2015 and the Doctor of Dental Surgery class of 2017 in historic Davidge Hall. Both events marked the first time the entire class had come together in one place, a memorable moment for students who will spend the next four years (two years for the hygiene students) learning and achieving their goals together.

Pharmacy student Larra Achmar, 21, was nervous and excited before the ceremony began, sitting in the front row in the MSTF auditorium while she waited for Eddington to begin speaking. "This is so exciting," she said. "It means I am starting my profession. I grew up in pharmacy." Her father, Kevin Achmar, a pharmacist in Virginia, raised his daughter to love his profession. He and Larra's mother, Suzie Achmar, were in attendance to watch their daughter receive her white coat.

"The goal of this ceremony is to transform you in mind, manner, and action from a student to a student pharmacist," said Eddington as she addressed the audience. "As you sit here now, it is hard to imagine that in four short years, you will walk across another stage to receive your Doctor of Pharmacy degree. The most important and critical value for you to embrace is professionalism."

After the students claimed their white coats, one by one, on the stage, they filed to the back of the auditorium to sign the Pledge of Professionalism, vowing that "the health and well-being of my patients will be my first consideration," and to employ altruism, honesty, and ethics in practice.

First-year student James Derby came to the pharmacy profession later in life, he explained just after receiving his jacket and signing his name to the pledge. His wife, Susan Nichols, and several friends were in attendance to share his excitement about the white coat ceremony.

"In my professional life, I felt like I knew that I needed to get some additional training," said Derby, who had worked in information systems in the finance industry. "I started thinking about health care, and that led me to pharmacy. This profession sort of appeals to my temperament - I have a strong attention to detail, and I'm interested in intellectual pursuits."

Outside of Davidge Hall just before 4 p.m., dentistry and dental hygiene students lined up down the front steps and around the corner from Lombard to Greene streets, each clutching a neatly folded, never-worn white coat. Dental student Kevin Demko, 23, used the word of the day - "excited" - to describe his mood as he waited for the white coat ceremony to begin. He had wanted to become a dentist since childhood, he explained.

"I had a really good dentist when I was a kid," Demko said. "He was the dad of a good friend, and I always admired him. We're all really excited today. We've been in class for about a month. This [ceremony] means we're now official in this professional program. All of the hard work I've been doing is paying off."

Asia Houston, 21, said she was looking forward to "wearing my white coat and being official." She had always planned to enter a health profession, and dentistry was an obvious choice for her, she said. "I like the art and science mixed together," Houston explained. "I like working with my hands. Dentistry is a perfect fit."

"This white coat symbolizes the most fundamental elements of professionalism," Dean Reynolds told his audience in Davidge Hall, including more than 200 households watching live-streamed video on the web. "The opportunity to provide health care is a privilege. We are trusted by society to hold ourselves to the highest ethical and professional standards. From this point on, you will be held to these very high standards."

The students listened to remarks from speakers including Robert J. Wilson Jr., DDS, PA, whose father and great-uncle graduated from the School of Dentistry. Dr. Wilson is now past-president of the Maryland State Dental Association. Toward the end of the ceremony, Patricia Meehan, DDS, associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Dentistry, asked all the students to stand and put on their white coats for the first time. A few moments of quiet rustling followed as each of the students slipped their arms into the jackets. Meehan led them in the reading of their professional oath before they broke for a reception back at the School of Dentistry.

"This marks the beginning of a very rich and certainly very rewarding career," Reynolds told the students.
Posting Date: 09/10/2013
Contact Name: Karen Robinson
Contact Phone: 410-706-0023
Contact Email: karobinson@umaryland.edu