By: Davidta Brown
Every year in late October, the third year pharmacy students at the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences attend a ceremony that marks their entry in the first professional year of their education. For these students, the White Coat Ceremony marks a coming of age and a full acceptance of the responsibilities of their chosen profession. The Ceremony, in which eager young students are each given the professional pharmacist’s white coat by an experienced member of the faculty, overflows with ritual and meaning. As in years past, the St. John’s tradition has once again led a group of third year students over the threshold, installing them in a new role in the fabric of society.
The White Coat Ceremony is both celebratory and reflective in nature. Throughout the special occasion, students are asked to contemplate their achievements to date and gaze prospectively at the challenges and duties that lie ahead. This year, on the brisk evening of October 23rd, the Class of 2017 followed the footsteps of countless pharmacy students before them, and received the white mantle that would mark them out as individuals who had chosen a life of professional service.
The 2013 White Coat Ceremony began with the pharmacy students filing into the auditorium of Marillac Hall; the tension of suppressed chatter and curious anticipation filled the room as proud friends and family photographed memoirs and video-recorded memories. Senior Associate Dean Brocavich provided a brief introduction, which was then followed by a prayer by Assistant Dean Etzel. The Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Dean DiGate, welcomed all of the students, faculty, and guests present. Provost Mangione then offered remarks alluding to the importance of the tradition.
A thought-provoking keynote address, delivered by St. John’s alumnus and current Dean of the Temple University School of Pharmacy Dr. Peter Doukas, invited students to keep their minds open to new and unexpected experiences. In addition, he advised the third year students to make the most of the opportunities they had in attending the St. John’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Dr. Doukas invoked the significance of the transformation that the students were to undergo, stating, “You will be moving from a condition of receiving, of absorbing and reflecting, towards a condition of giving…”. For these students, receiving the coat meant that one would henceforth be bound to the rest of mankind by the responsibilities of healing and of caring. As the students reflected on the new depth of their relationship to other people, particularly to future patients, they were also asked to understand the weight of their connection to those who had gone before them, the ghosts who had paved the way, and were told as they commemorated the milestone, “the spirits of your ancestors celebrate through you.”