After the COVID-19 pandemic delayed their white coat ceremonies, the day finally arrived for second- and third-year University of Florida College of Pharmacy students to ceremoniously receive their white coats. On April 2, these students joined their peers from the first-year class in walking across the stage to be coated.
The UF College of Pharmacy hosted three separate white coat ceremonies at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville. It was the first time the college had hosted the prestigious event since April 2019. More than 600 students participated across the three classes, with the first-year students being coated in the morning, followed by afternoon ceremonies for the second- and third-year students.
In acknowledging the unusual circumstances surrounding the delayed white coat ceremonies, Dean Julie Johnson, Pharm.D., applauded all the students who persisted through difficult times to finally enjoy their moment on the stage.
“Making the transition into pharmacy school and navigating through the curriculum is challenging under the best of circumstances, but these students have worked incredibly hard and persevered through exceptionally challenging times,” Johnson said. “The white coat is symbolic of the highest ideals of the practice of pharmacy, and it was especially meaningful to finally present white coats to our students.”
Each ceremony featured a keynote speaker and remarks from a senior UF College of Pharmacy student. Michael Jackson, B.Pharm., executive vice president and chief executive officer of the Florida Pharmacy Association, spoke to the first- and second-year cohorts and shared the special responsibility they will hold as pharmacists and health care providers.
“When you put on your white coat, you are walking through a special doorway,” Jackson said. “The public will put their trust in you and will look to you to solve their health problems.”
Theresa Tolle, B.Pharm., FAPhA, a 1988 graduate of the UF College of Pharmacy and president of the American Pharmacists Association, delivered the keynote remarks to the third-year students. Just weeks before the start of their clinical rotations, she encouraged the student pharmacists to be bold and look for opportunities to advocate for their patients and the profession.
“You chose pharmacy because you wanted to make a difference,” Tolle said. “On your toughest days, always remember your vow to eliminate suffering and health disparities. We are treasures to our communities and have demonstrated we can make a difference in public health.”
Johnson noted that it was especially meaningful to have representation from the state and nation’s largest pharmacy organizations in attendance for the white coat ceremonies. Also joining Jackson and Tolle at the event was Carol Motycka, Pharm.D., BCACP, president of the Florida Pharmacy Association and assistant dean for the UF College of Pharmacy’s Jacksonville campus.
The three senior students selected to speak at the ceremonies were Joseph Washington, Emily Bennett and Hannah Davis. Each shared personal reflections from their time as a pharmacy student and offered advice for navigating the remaining years of a student’s pharmacy education.
The ceremonies also featured a reading of the class creed. Each class developed their creed at orientation and student pharmacists from the three UF College of Pharmacy campuses came on stage to lead their class in reciting the creed.
The White Coat Ceremony is an annual highlight in the life of a UF College of Pharmacy student. The college was one of the first in the country to host a ceremony, as Randell Doty, Pharm.D., a clinical associate professor of pharmacotherapy and translational research, and a several faculty established the event about 20 years ago. Today, nearly every pharmacy college in the country hosts a similar ceremony.
A live stream of the ceremonies generated nearly 2,000 impressions and viewers from more than 40 countries.
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