“The End of a Long Journey”

SHS PA-Manhattan Class of 2018 Celebrates at White Coat Ceremony

June 05, 2018
Physician Assistant Manhattan, Class of 2018 White Coat Ceremony

Forty students from the School of Health Sciences (SHS) Manhattan Physician Assistant (PA) program took the next step in their medical careers by donning their white coats on May 10. Hundreds of friends and family members celebrated with them during the White Coat Ceremony, held at New York Academy of Medicine in Manhattan.

“Your formal education is ending, but the process of learning the art of medicine is only beginning,” emphasized Paula Pashkoff, program director of the SHS PA-Manhattan program, during the reception. The students are completing their last rotation before their official graduation in September.

Touro College Provost Patricia Salkin spoke of their newfound responsibilities and what their white coats symbolize.

“The white coat represents privilege,” she said. “It is a privilege to serve others… When you wear this white coat you must always conduct yourselves with the highest standard of honesty and you must carry yourselves, always, with integrity.”

“Your patients will look to you to keep them safe—safe from harm, safe from pain, safe from disease and safe to enjoy their lives. This is a tremendous purpose and one you must strive to work at constantly.”

Dean of the School of Health Sciences Dr. Louis Primavera spoke about the increasing role physician assistants play in medical teams. “You are an integral part of the medical team and many of you will move into senior roles and make us proud,” he said, then adding from his own experience, “I know if there’s a Touro-trained PA, I’m in good hands.”

Richard Gemming, PA, MPH, the executive director of Western Connecticut Medical Group, delivered keynote remarks. He spoke about his long history in the profession before challenging the students: “Where is your contribution going to be?”

John Mack, MS, PA-C, an alumnus of the Touro College PA-Manhattan program and now the director of operations at Western Connecticut Medical Group, also gave advice to the students.

“Why did you want to be a PA?” Mack asked the audience. “For me it was the three P’s: people, patient-centered and we’re partnership-oriented… Be true to your profession, be true to the philosophy and always keep the patient in the center of all the decisions you have to make.”

Dr. Joseph Tommasino, chairperson of SHS’s PA programs, introduced the student awards, noting that in the last five years, “We only had one student fail the boards out of several hundreds, so no pressure,” he said to laughter.

The class of 2018 includes students from different backgrounds. Class president Tim Donoho was a marine who served multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said he chose the profession because of the history the profession has with the military. (Many of the first PAs were returning combat medics from Vietnam.) “It’s the end of a long journey,” said Donoho about the White Coat Ceremony. 

Sumera Chaggan moved with her husband from California to study at Touro’s Manhattan PA program. She said the program was “amazing.” “I chose Touro since they had a 100 percent pass rate in the last four years,” said Chaggan

Matt Wong, originally of Maine, came to the program with a better familiarity of the hard sciences than his peers: he was mid-way through his Ph.D. in cancer research before he decided to become a PA.

“I suppose I had an advantage in the hard sciences part of our curriculum but on the clinical side we all started from the same place,” said Wong.

Hadassah Zimberg, a graduate of Touro’s Lander College for Women—the Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School, celebrated her white coat with her husband Yaakov. “I wanted to be able to serve people,” said Zimberg about her decision to attend PA school.

And while the academics of the program were intense, some students found time for romance.

Students Amanda Liboreiro and John Cangelosi began dating during their studies. “She keeps me focused,” said Cangelosi. “He distracts me,” joked Liboreiro. Both are considering working in the emergency medicine field.