This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services
. The author of this post is Spaine Stephens
East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine student Cesar Pelaez is helped into his white coat by faculty members Hanan Elgendy and Luis Sensi during the school’s Jan. 27 White Coat Ceremony. (Photos by Rhett Butler)
The East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine presented its second-year students their white coats on Friday marking the transition from preclinical work to the clinical phase of their dental education.
The 52 members of the Class of 2025 celebrated the rite of passage in front of family, friends, faculty, staff, administrators and members of the dental community during the White Coat Ceremony in Hendrix Theatre.
"This ceremony marks a momentous event in your professional journey,"
Greg Chadwick, dean of the ECU School of Dental Medicine, told the students. "It is a tradition that marks your transition from learning how to apply the clinical skills and knowledge you've gained to putting those skills and talents into action through patient care. From this point on, you will be held to a higher standard - that of a doctor of dental medicine and a member of the dental profession."
Each year, the class votes on two faculty members for the honor of coating the students. The Class of 2025 selected Hanan Elgendy, clinical assistant professor in general dentistry, and Luis Sensi, clinical assistant professor and division director of operative dentistry. As each student's name was called, Elgendy and Sensi helped them don their coats, which were sponsored by members of the professional community as a show of support.
Todd Watkins, assistant dean for dental education and informatics, and Maggie Pafford, associate dean for student affairs, presented the class for coating. Pafford worked to make the Class of 2025's ceremony special and representative of the class - and a meaningful milestone as they take another step toward becoming dentists.
"I love the symbolic and physical part of white coat ceremony,"
Pafford said. "As students slip on this pristine, superhero-like outer covering, they can begin to feel the weight and responsibility of being a patient provider, yet look in the mirror and begin to see the doctor they're going to be. The White Coat Ceremony specifically draws attention to this balanced relationship that we share with our patient."
Each class creates a class pledge, which they read as a group during their ceremony. The Class of 2025's pledge begins, "We, the Class of 2025, pledge to treat every patient to the best of our ability by working purposefully with our hands guided by compassion. We ardently vow to eradicate barriers by advocating for those voices often ignored."
Following in professional footsteps
The Class of 2025's White Coat Ceremony was particularly poignant for Pafford because she was a member of the school's inaugural Class of 2015 and joined the school's faculty in 2016 as a clinical assistant professor.
"To be able to play a role in this milestone achievement is incredibly humbling and full circle,"
Pafford said. "The clinical care component of our curriculum is unlike any other, and I'm so excited for our students to be able to fulfill the dreams that many of them had since they were children."
Chadwick emphasized the white coat as a symbol of the relationship between patient and provider and its importance in the profession.
"The white coat symbolizes the confidence we have placed in you and your abilities,"
he said. "It also symbolizes the most important relationship you will have in your professional life: the relationship between patient and doctor. That relationship is dependent upon your commitment to maintaining the highest ethical standards and professional values."
During the ceremony, vice dean Margaret Wilson introduced speakers from across the profession, including Robert Hollowell, chair of the American College of Dentists, Carolinas Section; Theodore Roberson II, from the International College of Dentists; and Curtis Newsome, president-elect of the Old North State Dental Society. All shared greetings with the class and welcomed them to the next phase of their educational journeys.
Wilson also helped the students understand their place in the dental profession and their obligations from this point on.
"This is an important milestone in your professional lives because today is the day that you formally accept your responsibilities to your patients, to your communities and to society,"
she said. "You are taking part in the tradition of white coat ceremonies that are held in health professions schools across the United States, and you are helping to shape the legacy and tradition that define the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine."