by Eric D. Lehman, Associate Professor, Communications Specialist
On March 18, 2022, University of Bridgeport (UB) held its annual “White Coat Ceremony” for Physician Assistant (PA) students.
The ceremony occurs at the midpoint of UB’s 28-month Physician Assistant program and symbolizes the transition from the didactic phase to clinical learning. One of the important things that identify our students on clinicals is their white coat with the UB PA logo. During the ceremony, the white coats are awarded to each student to recognize the achievement of moving into the clinical phase of the curriculum.
“In our program, the first year is the didactic year, focusing on developing fundamental medical knowledge and understanding evidence-based practice,” explains administrative coordinator Christine Fleahman, MSEd, “so, the White Coat Ceremony is a celebratory time. Students finally get to apply their learned skills and train with other medical providers and PAs to get real-world experience.”
PAs are a growing part of the health care system. For more than a decade, UB’s Physician Assistant Institute has offered the PA master’s degree program to address this demand. The curriculum emphasizes global health, preventive medicine, and an integrative approach benefiting all patients. Since its inception, the program’s graduates have had remarkable success on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), with 98% of first-time test takers achieving a passing score.
This year, 37 students received their white coats from the director of the PA Institute, Lauren Weindling. Students’ families were in attendance, which was a welcome sight as guests had not been able to attend this ceremony in recent years due to the pandemic. In the faculty address, medical director Dr. Richard Torres spoke about the significance of the white coat and its role in distinguishing medical professionals. Makayla Williams, president of the class, reflected on the many successes of her classmates and offered advice for their future endeavors on clinical rotations. The Director of Academic Affairs for the PA program, Professor Katie Bisceglie, led the students in the PA oath.
The students will now transition into a rigorous year of clinical coursework, which involves rotations in internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, OB/GYN, behavioral health, family medicine, general surgery, and an elective of the student’s choice. Most recently, the program added an additional clinical clerkship devoted to exposing students to special underserved or underrepresented populations. Students complete these clerkships in hospitals, primary care offices, residential facilities, and clinics. There are many diverse options for elective experiences including orthopedics, cardiothoracic surgery, dermatology, and even transplant surgery.
“It’s a valuable experience because they get a better sense of what field they want to work in,” says Christine Fleahman. “It’s an appealing part of the profession that they have the lateral mobility and choice to work in a variety of fields when they graduate.”