For individuals working in the health care field, a white coat symbolizes professionalism, integrity and the highest commitment to caring for the sick, said PCOM Georgia’s Physician Assistant Site Director Dr. Rebekah Thomas, PharmD, PA-C.
“It conveys respect and is a visual reminder of the trust we must earn from our patients,” she said.
On the morning of Friday, Aug. 19, the song “Heal the World” by Michael Jackson, performed by Alison Ritter, a student in the Physician Assistant Studies program at PCOM Georgia in Suwanee, marked the beginning of the physician assistant white coat ceremony held at Gas South District in Duluth, and 32 first-year PA students, all members of the Class of 2024, received their white coats.
A 2014 graduate of the PA program at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Tsitsi Masviba, MS, PA-C, addressed the physician assistant students. After working at the Georgetown University department of neurosurgery for eight years, she recently moved to Georgia and works as part of the neurosurgery and neurointerventional team in the Northeast Georgia Health System’s physician group.
“You are officially becoming a part of a community that meets people at some of the lowest points in their life,” she said, “but you are now being trained and will have the privilege, trust and honor to heal in your community.”
Ritter, a first-year PA student, said her class is “starting our journey to become professionals in the medical field.
“This ceremony represents our first step forward and marks the beginning of that journey,” she said. “We’re really excited, nervous and honored to be here with each other.”
That afternoon, 38 second-year doctor of physical therapy students, also members of the class of 2024, received their white coats as a symbol of “your transformative journey in becoming a healthcare professional,” said Dr. Ruth Maher, PT, PhD, DPT, chair of the physical therapy program. “Your white coat is an everlasting symbol of the physical therapy profession’s purity of purpose — placing the interests of patients first and above self-interest.”
Dr. Remi Onifade, PT, DPT, gave remarks for the doctor of physical therapy ceremony. She serves as the clinic director at Team Rehabilitation Physical Therapy, is an adjunct professor at Morehouse College and co-founded the National Association of Black Physical Therapists. In addition, she serves as vice president of the Georgia chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association, as well as chair of the chapter’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee. She encouraged the physical therapy students to “embrace change that is needed to improve diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in our society.”