September 5, 2014

Class of 2018 – Open House and White Coat Ceremony

White Coat
Second-year student Jelena Stojakovic, left, and second-year student Ambre Camp assist first-year student Jessica Reid at the White Coat Ceremony.

Sept. 5, 2014 | The Class of 2018 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Pharmacy took the first steps toward becoming pharmacists at an Aug. 22 white coat ceremony, which followed a family open house day. More than 500 family members, friends and faculty witnessed the 120 incoming students in the College of Pharmacy receive their white coats, a tradition since 2003 that symbolizes their commitment to the profession of pharmacy.

UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., said the ceremony also symbolizes the students’ commitment to excellence.

“Ever since the UAMS College of Pharmacy opened its doors back in 1951, we have educated the majority of Arkansas’ pharmacists,” Rahn said. “But our goal isn’t just to impart knowledge. We also work hard to instill in our students the highest professional and ethical standards. And that is what tonight’s white coat ceremony is all about.”

White Coat
Fourth-year student Brandon King explains to Family Open House attendees how students use various supplies during patients screenings during a tour stop in the UAMS Center for Clinical Skills Education.

Stephanie F. Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., College of Pharmacy dean, explained the components of the Oath of a Student Pharmacist, taken by students later in the ceremony, and the high level of credentials the incoming class holds.

She also shared stories of current students’ experiences from the 12th Street Health and Wellness Center, telling students that cultural competency is a crucial tool in today’s patient care. She cited examples like that of a patient who’d been diagnosed with diabetes and received medication but never took it simply because the directions on his medication were in English but he only read Spanish.

“You can learn everything there is in the textbook, but if we don’t get the patient’s story, we might not be able to treat them,” she said.

The average grade point average of the incoming class, which includes 52 males and 68 females, was 3.53 and the average Pharmacy School Admittance Test score was in the 72nd percentile. Seventy-seven students have undergraduate degrees, five have master’s degrees and one student has a law degree.

The University of Kentucky began the white coat custom for pharmacy schools in 1995. Today, most schools of pharmacy conduct a white coat ceremony.

At UAMS, the event followed a fifth annual open house, sponsored by the College of Pharmacy Parent’s Club. Approximately 120 attendees, including students and their family members, were welcomed by speakers from the club and the college administration. They were then guided through various college facilities by student volunteers to see firsthand the work they’ll be doing.

That work of contributing to the care and healing of others, Rahn later said, is a privilege and an awesome responsibility.

“The white coat placed on each future pharmacist is more than a familiar lab coat – it is a cloak of competence, communication, caring, character and community,” he said. “The white coat is a symbol of this responsibility, of your professional commitment to helping the community. I’m confident that you will succeed and that the UAMS College of Pharmacy will prepare you well.”

White Coat
First-year student Mariam Kahn, second right, and her family after the White Coat Ceremony.