It All Begins with a White Coat

Published on 16 November 2021

White coat ceremonies have long been a tradition at many colleges and schools of pharmacy, marking a student's passage into the Doctor of Pharmacy program. The class of 2006 was the first to experience the St. Louis College of Pharmacy at University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis White Coat Ceremony in 2002, in which students signed the Pledge of Professionalism and were coated.

"White Coat is a way for us to celebrate our students' entry into the professional program and help them recognize the significance of the next four years," said Tricia Berry, B.S. '94, Pharm.D. '95, assistant dean of student academic affairs and professor of pharmacy at the University. "We want our student pharmacists to begin to feel, act and think like pharmacists, even though they are still learning and practicing under supervision. This ceremony allows us to honor that transition and their new responsibilities."

The responsibilities that accompany a student's transition into the professional program go beyond their commitment to their studies. The Pledge of Professionalism, signed and recited by all UHSP student pharmacists, highlights the characteristics and values intrinsic to a successful career as a student pharmacist and beyond.

"The pledge brings to the forefront the qualities essential to professional practice in health care," Berry said. "The pledge to maintain the highest ideals and professional attributes to facilitate the covenantal relationship between a pharmacist and their patient is particularly important to me. Having that relationship means putting your patients' needs first, and it emphasizes the important role pharmacists play in improving patient outcomes."

Every year, members of the University community are encouraged to participate in the White Coat Ceremony by sponsoring a student's white coat. This tradition has long been a favorite among alumni because it helps deepen their connection to the institution and strengthen their ties to the next generation of student pharmacists.

"I often sponsor white coats for incoming students because it is a great opportunity to congratulate and encourage them as they start their professional journey. It begins the professional networking process and builds a sense of family," Berry said. "I enjoy getting thank-you notes from the students whose coats I have sponsored, and I have known students who remember and interact with their white coat sponsor throughout their professional program. It means a lot to the students and can create a special bond."

The St. Louis College of Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony continues to be one of the great highlights of the academic year. For incoming student pharmacists, it is a pivotal moment in their academic and professional careers. For the wider campus community, it is a celebration of our dedicated students, our legacy, and the University's pursuit of excellence in health education.

This story was first published in the fall 2021 issue of Script Magazine. To view past issues of Script, visit the Script Magazine archive.

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