BISMARCK, ND — Second year students in the doctor of physical therapy program, and their proud families, friends and faculty packed Butler Auditorium this week for the very first White Coat Ceremony at the University of Mary.

Physical therapy Student Cole McKeown of Seaforth, MN, is all smiles as his advisor Dr. Lauren Emmel helps slip on the white coat

Physical therapy Student Cole McKeown of Seaforth, MN, is all smiles as his advisor Dr. Lauren Emmel helps slip on the white coat

PT faculty members and students spoke about the significance and meaning of this moment before calling each of the 45 students to come and receive their white coat from their respective advisor. All the students then recited the oath of physical therapy accepting the duties and responsibilities that embody the profession.

While this event celebrates the class of 2018 as they begin their second year in the doctoral program and advancement into the clinical phase, it is the serving-others-first spirit of the current class of 2017 that helped bring this momentous occasion to fruition.

“Even though the third-year students did not stand to benefit themselves from this ceremony, their passion about the significance of this event was passed on to the group sitting here before you,” said University of Mary professor and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, Dr. Mary Dockter, in her opening remarks to the audience. “There is nothing more satisfying for faculty than to see a group of people work together on an idea and pursue it with diligence, enthusiasm, respectfulness and collaborative attention to detail. And for that we are very proud of this group. They will leave a lasting legacy on this program.”

Physical therapy student Matthew Gibbs from Wellsville, OH, shakes the hand of his advisor Dr. Heather Lundeen after receiving his white coat

Physical therapy student Matthew Gibbs from Wellsville, OH, shakes the hand of his advisor Dr. Heather Lundeen after receiving his white coat

This ceremony marks the important step from the first year that provided a strong foundation in the sciences, to more of a focus moreon the care of patients and clients in diverse clinical settings.

“I know what kind of caliber of student you are, and have had the privilege of working with Dr. Mary Dockter,” stated Sharon Dunn, president of the American Physical Therapy Association who spoke via video from the headquarters in Virginia. “There’s no doubt you are in a high quality DPT program and the expectations are high when you graduate. Take this learning opportunity and feedback from clinical faculty as a gift that it is.”

Cole Schram, a current graduate student from Bozeman, MT, told his classmates that the white coat is more than a symbol, or rite of passage, or an object that is put in the closet never to be worn again.

Physical therapy student Cody Hatfield of Roseburg, OR, adjusts his new white coat presented to him by Dr. Michael Parker

Physical therapy student Cody Hatfield of Roseburg, OR, adjusts his new white coat presented to him by Dr. Michael Parker

“What if we view the white coat as a commitment rather than an object, a commitment rather than a representation of transition, a commitment rather than an accomplishment,” said Schram. “You see, as University of Mary physical therapy students we are committed to something bigger than ourselves. We are committed to the vision that our future colleagues currently uphold, to transform society by optimizing movement, ultimately improving the human experience.”

The white coat ceremony originated at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1993, and has since expanded to other health professions. Today the white coat ceremony has become a common tradition in most medical schools, as well as other schools of advanced medical training like the University of Mary.