“You Are Descendants of Warriors in a Noble Tradition”
SHS Physician Assistant Bay Shore Class of 2018 Dons White Coat at Touro Law Center
For physician assistant Chelsea Weir, a member of the graduating class of the School of Health Sciences Physician Assistant Bay Shore program, donning her white coat ceremony was imbued with meaning.
The month before, her father had died from a complication he suffered from an open-heart surgery he underwent half-a-year ago.
Weir who received the Salutatorian award as well as tying for the highest GPA of the class said that her choice to become a PA was influenced by her father’s work as a chiropractor. “He would’ve wanted me to be here,” said Weir. “He used to joke that when I get to PA school I had to be at the top of the class. I know he's proud of me."
Weir, together with 54 of her classmates, donned their white coat during a ceremony held on September 14 at Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in Central Islip. The ceremony occurred the day after the school-wide School of Health Sciences commencement service and was attended by several dozen family members and friends along with SHS-PA-Bay Shore Program Chair Dr. Joseph Tommasino and SHS Associate Dean Dr. Rivka Molinsky.
Program Director John Rongo praised the dedication of the newly minted PAs and called the ceremony a “milestone.”
“Your academic prowess didn’t get you through this, it was your heart that got your through this,” said Rongo. “You have earned the right to participate in the well-being of people’s health. You earned it; it was not given to you.”
Dr. Louis Primavera, Dean of the School of Health Sciences, said that before he arrived at Touro he wasn’t aware of the physician assistant profession. “Now, my primary care is provided by a PA,” said Dr. Primavera. “I have tremendous respect for all of you. I’m looking forward to having you treat me or treat a member of my family. You are the future of healthcare. You will play an increasing role in treating people in need. You have awesome responsibilities. You must keep thinking of what you can do for people.
Provost Patricia Salkin, JD, delivered the keynote remarks, focusing on the history, not only of the White Coat Ceremony, but of the white coat in general. With a slide show of period artwork by realist Thomas Eakins, Provost Salkin noted that up until the 19th century, medical practitioners dressed in black as a symbol of the formal nature of the medical profession. Additionally, Salkin added, if a doctor was called it was assumed a patient’s life was over.
“One theory is that physicians wore black because medical treatment was thought of as a serious and formal matter, emulating clergy who also dressed in black, indicative of the solemn nature of their role,” explained Salkin. “Another theory was that seeking medical advice was a last resort and frequently a precursor to death. There an encounter with a physician rarely benefitted the patient. In fact, up until that point, much of medicine entailed worthless cures and quackery.”
The change to garments of white occurred when medicine took on a science-based role as well as the notion of cleanliness and antiseptics came to the forefront.
“Physicians began to wear white lab coats emulating sciences to embody the new ideology of doctors as scientists practicing based on sound principles, practices and research,” Salkin said.
Salkin concluded her speech with a brief history of the PA program, which began in the 1960s, both in response to a shortage of physicians in the minority communities and the preponderance of experienced combat medics returning from the Vietnam War.
“Class of 2018, you are descendants of warriors in a noble tradition of service and sacrifice,” concluded Salkin. “You are now donning your white coats as a symbol of the caring and compassion your patients hope to receive.”
During the reception that followed, the PA graduates spoke of what led them to the profession.
Leslie Ann chose to become a PA after her father was injured in an accident and recovered with the help of a talented PA. She worked as an emergency department technician and an EMT before enrolling in PA school. "I worked with a lot of Touro graduates," she explained as the reason she chose Touro. After she takes her boards, Ann will be working in the trauma surgery department at Stony Brook Hospital.
“I was a paralegal and I went into work one day and realized I couldn’t do it for the rest of my life,” said Adrian Krueger who hopes to specialize in emergency medicine. “Becoming a PA was an amazing experience.”