The UNC School of Medicine Physician Assistant Studies program, part of the Department of Allied Health Sciences, recently held its second annual white coat ceremony to welcome students as they begin the semester.
For 2017-2018 academic year, the program received around 1,100 applicants for only 20 slots.
The program is designed to provide educational and career-development opportunities for nontraditional students, including veterans with medical experience, and to reduce North Carolina's health care workforce shortage in underserved areas.
This year’s class accomplishes both aims. Nine of the 20 admitted students are military veterans, and the members of the class are also older and more experienced than the national average. The group is diverse, greatly exceeding the national average for students from ethnic or racial minority groups.
Paul Chelminski, MD, MPH, professor of medicine, and primary care physician at UNC, is the PA program's director.
The program is made possible because of the unprecedented public-private partnerships and from generous donations from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC), the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation, and the leadership and support of Dr. Mary Susan Fulghum and her late husband, Dr. James Fulghum.
The tradition of coat ceremonies began relatively recently at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1993. Conceived by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the purpose of this ceremony is to emphasize the primacy of care to the individual patient in addition to the care of patients at the outset of their medical training. The ceremony provides the humanistic, philosophical grounding for the exacting, scientifically based training that students will receive. Caring (humanism) is coequal with and often, by necessity, transcends curing (science). The ceremony is marked by the presence of eminent leaders, faculty, and educators from the institution. Family members are invited to attend. Students recite the Hippocratic Oath and pledge to practice medicine with compassion, diligence, rectitude, and scientific rigor.