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2011 White Coat Ceremony

July 25, 2011

More than 200 people were in attendance on Friday, July 22 to celebrate and congratulate University of Mount Union students as they transitioned from classroom learning to the clinical phase of their physician assistant studies graduate education during the second annual White Coat Ceremony.
 
Sharon Luke, who serves as the program director of Mount Union’s Physician Assistant Studies Program as well as associate professor and chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, explained to the audience the true meaning of the White Coat Ceremony.
 
“This is a recognition ceremony for our students as they transition from the didactic phase to the clinical phase of their graduate education,” said Luke. “A white coat has been an important symbol of clinical care, knowledge and expertise for more than 100 years. I encourage you to use this program to reflect on what the white coat means to you and the physician assistant profession.”

For 15 consecutive months, students in the program have been challenged in the classroom to learn from textbooks, instructors and case studies. Now, students will soon begin a year of clinical rotations at hospitals, physicians’ offices and clinics.
 
“It is a pleasure this afternoon to witness this meaningful transition in your graduate education,” said Dr. Patricia Draves, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the University, as she commended the group of students for their pursuit of a demanding and rewarding career. “Although it’s hard to believe that in less than a year, we will watch you walk across the stage at Commencement in culmination of your studies, it is not difficult to envision you serving as valuable members of the healthcare profession, working alongside physicians to deliver quality care to patients in all areas of medicine. I am confident that we have equipped you with the knowledge, integrity and compassion to be successful as you embark on the next phase of your lives, and I am certain that your work will be meaningful, your lives fulfilling and your commitment to your community stronger than ever.”
 
Dr. Wendy Kissinger, medical director of Mount Union’s Physician Assistant Studies Program, served as the keynote speaker of the ceremony. Kissinger used the acronym “CARE” to explain how students should transition from the didactic realm to the clinical arena. CARE stands for collect, acknowledge, respond and excel.
 
Kissinger explained that students should examine the patient, gather the patient’s medical history, collect physical findings and ask questions. The more information you collect, the more accurate you will be when making a diagnosis. Students should also acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses. “No matter how long you study, how many patients you work on or what life experiences you’ve encountered, we all have weaknesses,” she said. “But you have to move one step forward and try to improve them. You aren’t expected to know everything. It’s OK to ask questions.”
 
When discussing the excel portion of CARE, Kissinger encouraged students to go the extra mile. It might be grabbing a cup of coffee and a warm blanket for a patient or talking to a family member on the phone who lives out of state, but it can make all the difference and it will make your profession much more rewarding.
 
“Congratulations to all 26 of you,” said Kissinger. “You’ve now completed the basic science portion of your program. Just remember to CARE.”
 
A member of the Mount Union community since 2009, Kissinger is an attending physician in the emergency department of Summa Barberton Hospital, where she has also served as a clinical preceptor. In addition, she is a flight physician for Cleveland Metro Life Flight. A native of Wadsworth, Ohio, she earned a bachelor of science degree in microbiology from The Ohio State University before pursuing a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree from Ohio University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed both an internship with an emphasis in emergency medicine and her residency at South Pointe Hospital in Warrensville Heights, Ohio.

Following the keynote address, each student received his or her white coat from their academic advisor. After receiving their coats, the students, in unison, took the physician assistant oath, a pledge of professionalism.
 
The Physician Assistant Studies Program at Mount Union is the University’s first master’s level program in nearly a century. The program, which began in May of 2009, offers a curriculum rich in biomedical and clinical preparatory sciences and develops the medical decision-making and problem-solving skills that may be applied to patient situations encountered in clinical practice. The role of a physician assistant in medical practice is to be a caring, compassionate advocate for the patient and to spend more time with the patient than the physician can in providing patient education. Students within the program will earn a master of science degree after successful completion of 27 months of coursework and clinicals.
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