We did it! Each student in the Elon University Physician Assistant Class of 2018 made it through the didactic year! It was arguably one of the craziest times of my life. There were some days it seemed like the year would never end, and others where it seemed like time was flying by at the speed of light. So this is proof to all of the first years who are just finishing the first intro module and are stepping up to the fire hydrant. There is an end. Take it one day, one test, one assignment at a time and you will make it through. I promise.

Too much has happened this year to share now. In short, I can say we had a number of amazing experiences, participated in many marvelous learning opportunities, and built never-ending friendships. It was a year characterized by moments of great fun and long days of ridiculously hard work. For more information on some of those experiences and opportunities feel free to look back at past blogs.

Our White Coat Ceremony was held December 11, 2016 at the beautiful Numen Lumen Building on the gorgeous Elon University Campus. I’ve had a few people ask me just what the White Coat Ceremony was and what it meant. Basically, it’s a celebration to mark our move from preclinical to clinical training. It’s an honor that means we made it through the craziness that is the didactic year and are progressing forward.  It indicates our transition from studying at a desk full of books to working at the bedside of a patient (although there is plenty of book studying in the background and off hours during rotations. 🙂 ) We receive white coats that are waist length to indicate our student status and will receive the longer white coat upon successful completion of the program.

Dr. Ragan, our program director, started off our ceremony with a few words of wisdom, particularly about our responsibility to the patient, their family, and ourselves. We then heard from the executive Vice President of Elon University Provost Steven House, who congratulated us on our work thus far and offered some great guidance on our journey forward. It was kind of a fun book end to the year since he had also spoken to us on the very first day of the program.

Afterwards we had the great opportunity to have our keynote address from Dr. Scott Bennett, an ENT physician who we had several times in lecture throughout the year. He demonstrated his unique skill of singing while performing an endoscopy on himself during one of those lectures. Unfortunately, he didn’t repeat his skill at the White Coat Ceremony. He did however give an incredible speech about the responsibilities we were being given and offered great advice on several important topics. The title of his talk was “So you have superpowers and a cool costume — now what?” It was written using analogies from the story of Spider-Man and his experiences in the original comic books to describe situations we would face as we moved forward in our education and practice. At first I was a little thrown off, “What does Spider-Man have to do with being a PA?” I quickly learned that the answer was a LOT! I was blown away by the parallels he drew between Spider-Man and the PA profession.  I can’t do justice to his keynote address and would encourage you to follow the link to the YouTube video of the White Coat Ceremony where you can hear for yourself his amazing speech. A few highlights include his advice to take time for self-reflection after a case to learn from any mistakes, a reminder of our need for continued learning, and a warning to keep work life separate in order to take time for yourself to rejuvenate and prevent burn out.

During the White Coat Ceremony, we were given the opportunity to recite the PA Professional Oath. In the oath, we pledged to put the safety, privacy, and health of our patients first. We also promised to abide by a professional code of ethics. It was an incredible moment in time for me. To hear my classmates reciting the oath, and to be saying the words myself was an indescribable event. It really hit me how far I had come in my goal of becoming a physician assistant. It also impressed upon my mind the fact that I would be working and dealing with real people and real issues. It emphasized to me the responsibility that was being placed on my shoulders.

President Graham Brown and Vice President Sophia Caccavale of the Elon Physician Assistant Student Society also addressed us. They did an amazing job of summing up our crazy year with laughter and jokes, as well as reminding us of how far we had come as a class and as individuals. They also took the opportunity to acknowledging the many people, professors, faculty and more that made our year beyond incredible.

Our White Coat Ceremony was an amazing day, one I will not soon forget. As I make my way into clinical rotations I carry with me the words they shared, the promises I made, and the feelings I experienced to help push me forward into becoming the best PA I can be.

PS: Had to give a quick shout out to my parents who flew in from Oregon to be there to support me and to all of the other family, friends, and loved ones of all my classmates who were there demonstrating their love and support.