Chapman University’s School of Pharmacy (CUSP) is hosting its second White Coat Ceremony on Friday, August 26th. This ceremony marks the beginning of their professional pharmacy education, with 77 students going through the tradition.

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But what exactly IS a white coat ceremony? Everyone knows the white coats in question –  they’ve been worn by doctors and scientists since the late 1880’s to protect skin and clothing from a variety of substances. But the idea of the white lab coat, as used by physicians and doctors, was initially to distinguish themselves from those without academic credentials, snake oil salesmen, and homeopaths. These days, the white coat is synonymous with professionalism.

The tradition of having a white coat ceremony is relatively new in the world of academia, and was only first introduced in 1993 at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. Created by Dr. Arnold P. Gold. The vision was to establish defined guidelines regarding the expectations and responsibilities appropriate for the medial profession BEFORE students even began their training.  The white medical coat, and the ceremony of presenting it to students, became symbolic of the desire to do right by patients and by the profession.

According to The Arnold P. Goldman Foundation’s site, the White Coat Ceremony (or similar rites of passage) “takes place at 97% of AAMC-accredited schools in the United States.” As the Chapman University School of Pharmacy is one of the schools that participates in this ceremony, we asked students who went through the inaugural White Coat Ceremony last year to share with us their thoughts on the process.

What does the White Coat Ceremony mean to you personally?

Michael Gonzalez: For me, the white coat ceremony felt like a huge achievement in my life, even though it was only the sign of the beginning of the program. I feel that the white coat ceremony gave me a feeling of achievement in the sense that I finally made it, getting that much closer to fulfilling my dream.

Onyeka Peter: To me, the White Coat Ceremony is a dream come true. It reminds me that hard work pays off, (and) it also evokes the saying that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’. This exercise signifies the beginning of a new and long journey into Pharmacy profession. Above all, I saw the White Coat as an investment of authority and professionalism.

How important was it that the White Coat Ceremony took place at the beginning of your education?

Ani Haroutunyan: It highlighted my purpose for entering the pharmacy school and provided me with more motivation to be a successful student pharmacist.

Jasmine Sardar: Taking place before the start of my pharmacy education, the White Coat Ceremony marked the day in which I accepted the obligations of the pharmacy profession and committed myself to honor, responsibility and respect. This ceremony emphasized the importance of excellence not only in the classroom, but also in the community to ensure quality patient care.

Dr. Brown, Dr. Struppa and Dean Jordan What was going through your mind during the ceremony?

Michael Gonzalez: At the ceremony I was intrigued by all that was going on, but in my mind I was preparing myself to take on the next chapter in my life knowing that I worked so hard to get to this point.

Jasmine Facchetti: That I will spend the remaining of my energy in building a strong clinical foundation and work towards improving healthcare.

Ani Haroutunyan: It felt like a dream come true – ‘People will rely on me as a pharmacist, I can make a difference in people’s health life.’

What was going through your mind when you put on your coat for the first time?

Jasmine Sardar: Putting on my white coat for the first time was my ‘non-paper’ acceptance into Chapman University School of Pharmacy and it affirmed my status as a student pharmacist.

Onyeka Peter: (I was) overjoyed and at the same time, felt duty bound, especially as we recite the Oath of Pharmacy Profession.