From Learner to Health Care Profession Trainee

By Danica Fisher ’05, January 31, 2022
First cohort of Ithaca College PAs are given their white coats.

On Friday, January 28, the inaugural class of the PA program at Ithaca College held its white coat ceremony in Emerson Suites. Intended for first year students in medical, nursing and physician assistant programs, the white coat ceremony is a rite of passage that serves to welcome students to healthcare practice and elevate the value of humanism as the core of healthcare. It provides a powerful emphasis on compassion in combination with scientific excellence. 

“The donning of the white coat symbolizes the movement from learner to health care profession trainee,” said Susan Salahshor, director of the PA program and assistant professor.  “It is the outward evidence of the great responsibility placed on health care professionals. It is humbling, motivating, makes one proud of the decision to pursue the profession and places the professional responsibilities on the white coat recipient to follow the PA oath. It is one of the proudest moments on the journey to being a PA.” 

“The establishment of this PA program was a proud moment in our institution’s evolution. And students, as our very first cohort, you will make us forever proud through your lives and through your legacy."

La Jerne Terry Cornish, interim president.

During the ceremony, La Jerne Terry Cornish, interim president, talked about marking this special occasion, not just for the students, but for families and supporters as well.

Daryle Blackstock

Daryle Blackstock speaks to first PA cohort at IC during white coat ceremony. (Photo by: Nathalie Molina '24) 

“The establishment of this PA program was a proud moment in our institution’s evolution. And students, as our very first cohort, you will make us forever proud through your lives and through your legacy,” said Cornish. “Thank you for joining us today for this significant moment and thank you for being a part of our Ithaca College family.” 

Daryle Blackstock, a certified clinical transplant coordinator currently serving as the director of clinical transplant operations at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center, Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College, spoke to the 30 PA students, having them repeat the mantra: “With my mind I can think it, with my heart I can feel it, and with these hands I can achieve it.” 

“You represent this class, this group, the epitome of a diversified PA class,” said Blackstock.  “Representation matters, learning from each other matters, changing cultural ideas matters, understanding and being willing to share and being vulnerable to share and learn, matters. Because you will be able to relate to your patients on a whole other level.” 

students receiving white coats

PA learners receiving their white coats. (Photo by: Miles Olivetti ’24)

The students were then given their white coats two at a time, by Ithaca College faculty. Following the donning of the white coats, the learners took the physician assistant oath.  

Students were proud to be a part of this honored tradition. 

“The white coat ceremony means that my cohort and I are one step closer to serving our communities as physician assistants,” said Shantell Kargbeh ’23. “Our years of hard work and dedication to this path are now visibly culminating, putting us into the position to become trusted and compassionate health care providers. The white coat ceremony is something I have been looking forward to since my freshman year of college and I am grateful to be a part of the inaugural cohort.” 

“As a learner, it is important to be thankful for all the small victories as you are progressing towards your goals,” said Anessa Bajric ’23. “The journey is just as crucial as the end goal because you can learn from your mistakes and grow as an individual and a provider. This white coat ceremony symbolizes our continued growth and represents how our efforts have brought us to another milestone on the path to becoming clinicians.” 

"To me, the white coat ceremony is the beginning of the transition in my education from the theoretical in the classroom to the physical in the clinic,” said Rodger Lantz ’23. “As for the coat itself, I see it as a symbol of authority in a medical discipline, and with that the responsibility to be competent and serve my community. "