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MC Physician Assistant Class of 2025 Pledges to Uphold Tenets of Patient Care During White Coat Ceremony

Members of the Mississippi College Physician Assistant Studies Program Class of 2025 show off their new coats following the White Coat Ceremony Aug. 31 in Anderson Hall.
Members of the Mississippi College Physician Assistant Studies Program Class of 2025 show off their new coats following the White Coat Ceremony Aug. 31 in Anderson Hall.

Members of the Mississippi College Physician Assistant Studies Program Class of 2025 entered a special realm when they were welcomed into a profession of passion, commitment, and privilege during the program’s 13th White Coat Ceremony Aug. 31 in Anderson Hall in the B.C. Rogers Student Center.

Steve Martin, department chair and program director, said the students have completed perhaps the most difficult semester of PA school – the preclinical phase. The ceremony marks the point where they have earned the right to join the ranks of those who administer care to actual patients.

“This semester, this class has had intensive study in anatomy and physiology, learned how to conduct a proper history from a patient and how to present their findings to other members of the medical team,” Martin said. “They’ve begun the very rigorous Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutic, Fundamentals of Medical Science, Professional Development, and Behavioral and Community Medicine Series.”

Now, the 35 students will share the privilege of caring for the health and well-being of the community – an extraordinary opportunity that carries a tremendous responsibility, Martin said.

“Accepting the white coat means you also accept this responsibility – this charge – to respect and protect the dignity and autonomy of your patients, both in good health and in ill health, and to do your very best for them at every moment,” Martin said. “The White Coat Ceremony is a tradition that marks an important milestone in the Mississippi College Physician Assistant Program. It is our way of welcoming you, the Class of 2025, to the profession.”

After an invocation by Perry Powell, spiritual chair of the class, Mississippi College President Blake Thompson welcomed the assembly of about 300 PA faculty, staff, students, family members, and friends.

Guest speaker Stephanie Stanford Keith, a certified physician assistant and 2023 PA Alumna of the Year who serves as an assistant professor and associate director of clinical education, reflected on her own PA class’s White Coat Ceremony and challenged the students to remain supportive of one another.

“Normalize compliments and build each other up,” she said. “Life is hard enough without us breaking each other down or comparing each other. Be kind, be empathetic, and look out for each other. Don’t take yourself seriously, and stay humble.

“On the flip side, care for yourself and give yourself grace. Remember that you are human and will do the best you can for your patients. We all know and believe that, but you’re not perfect. You’re going to make mistakes. Remember to give yourself a little bit of grace and know your worth.”

Above all, Keith told the students to remember to look for good in any situation.

“Remember the people who raised you, the people who built you up and turned you into who you are today,” she said. “If you try to find the bad and the evil in the world, you will find it, but if you try to find the good – in people, in courses that you might not like, in clinical rotations that aren’t quite what you thought they would be – you can find it.

“Don’t forget that practicing medicine is an honor, a privilege, and a gift. What a gift it is to walk into a room with a patient and say you’re the person who will be taking care of them. Think about the responsibility . . . I’m going to take all of their stress and anxiety, and I will try to make something of it for them. That’s such a privilege and it’s such a gift. Never forget that.”

After Julie Kasperski, a Canadian-trained physician assistant and new assistant professor of physician assistant studies, offered a “Pocketful of Advice” to the class before Kenneth Butler, assistant professor, director of admissions in the department, and former president of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences, oversaw the presentation of the white coats.

The students were organized into six groups according to the faculty “coach” they had been assigned to in the PA Program: Team (Megan) Colvin, Team (Justin) Goebel, Team (Katryna) Horton, Team (Julie) Kasperski, Team (Stephanie Stanford) Keith, and Team (Daniel J.) Watkins.

After receiving their coats, the students raised their right hands and recited the Physician Assistant Oath administered by Justin Goebel, assistant professor and director of clinical education. Evan Lenow, associate professor, chair, and director of church and minister relations and director of event services, concluded the ceremony by performing a Blessing of the Hands and giving the Benediction.

As the class concludes the preclinical phase of its training, Martin said they will begin “the very heart of medicine” – the clinical medicine series.

“It is here they will learn and understand how each disease affects, how it presents, how to make the diagnosis, and how to begin treatment,” he said. “They’ll build on their foundation each semester for the next year until they enter the clinical phase of their PA studies.

“These students will then have direct and intense interaction with real patients and learn to make actual decisions that can make a difference in their patients’ lives. Each student has worked so very hard up to this point to earn this honor.”