Keynote speaker Jay A. Perman, MD, president of the Baltimore campus of the University of Maryland, told the 163 first-year students at the Dental School's White Coat ceremony on Sept. 13 that two traits of their new profession are absolutely essential -- "to listen and to communicate well."
During the ceremony, students donned their starched white coats and took an oath of professionalism. Schools across the country this fall are presenting white coats to future physicians, dentists, physical therapists, veterinarians, and pharmacists. The white coat represents the students' past and current leadership endeavors and achievements and their commitment to provide the best dental care to their future patients.
Perman asked the students to view their white coats both as "symbols of your profession, but also as a symbol of how you fill them out." He said, "Your patients will often come to you stressed and you will be stressed. You will want to give your patients quality time and a greater degree of comfort."
The new University president, who took office on July 1, said before the ceremony, "The White Coat ceremony to me is very emotional. This is because I've learned over the years it's a very special occasion for the parents, faculty, and most of all the students. It signals to them that they are preparing to be professionals."
You have become part of a rich tradition," said Christian S. Stohler, DMD, DrMedDent, dean of the Dental School, the world's first dental college, founded in 1840. Each year, Stohler chooses Davidge Hall for the ceremony, built when James Madison was president of the United States, and recognized as the oldest medical facility in the country continuously used for medical education.
"It's the right place," said Stohler. He looked up at the students, who sat close together in steep, circular rows of the old Davidge Chemical Hall and said, "This ceremony is about tradition. You have become part of a rich tradition as you assume your positions as health professionals. Your integrity and values will define your professional life from this time on."
William Martin III, DDS, president of the Maryland State Dental Association, greeted the new class of dental and dental hygienist students. "Everyone will look at you as a trusted clinician. And another aspect of you will be part of a community," he said.
Nathan Fletcher, DDS, president of the National Dental Association, told the students never to forget their responsibilities to their communities at large "as well as to your patients. You will have to deal with their expectations. Please make sure you always make a positive impression."
C. Yolanda Bonta, DMD, MS, executive director of the Hispanic Dental Association, reflected on her impression several days earlier upon hearing the names of 9/11 fatalities read at a commemoration of the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. "None were typically American. All were typically American. Your patients will also all be unique and all the same, in your care."
The 163 new students were accepted to the Dental School from among about 3,000 applicants.