Pharmacy Students Receive White Coats in Symbolic Rite of Passage

March 24, 2022

More than 200 members of the Doctor of Pharmacy Class of 2025 donned their white coats before a proud crowd of family and friends who gathered on Saturday, March 19, for the White Coat Convocation on the Queens, NY, campus of St. John’s University.

Organized by the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (CPHS), the ceremony, which includes an oath of commitment the students make to the pharmacy profession and the health of the patients they serve, is a rite of passage while they prepare for careers in the health-care sciences. It signifies a milestone as they continue their transition toward becoming health professionals. The white coat is viewed as a symbol of caring, compassion, and service.

“This piece of apparel serves as a link among all who practice the healing arts and provide individualized care to patients,” said Joseph M. Brocavich, Pharm.D., Senior Associate Dean of the Pharmacy Program and Associate Clinical Professor at CPHS, during welcoming remarks he made to the audience inside Taffner Field House

Keynote speaker Donney John ’04Pharm.D., a member of the first Doctor of Pharmacy class to graduate from St. John’s and Executive Director of NOVA ScriptsCentral, a nonprofit pharmacy in Virginia, told the pharmacy students, “These white coats are part of your journey to becoming a community health champion for your families, friends, and loved ones.”

“As we have witnessed over the past two years of COVID-19, individuals seek information from a variety of sources. They tend to listen to information from people whom they feel they can trust,” Dr. John said. “By earning your white coats, you will become that beacon of hope for people to turn to for help and guidance.”

Dr. Brocavich also referenced COVID-19, calling for a moment of silence in remembrance of all who were lost to the pandemic. “And we offer prayers for all of the health-care providers who helped people through the tough days; many of those health providers are here tonight.” 

Dr. John had high praise for the pharmacy faculty as one of the “greatest assets” the students at CPHS have access to as they continue their studies. “The faculty may seem intimidating at first, because they are so talented. But once you actually speak with them, you will quickly realize they are here to generously share their brilliance with all of you.” 

All 221 pharmacy students celebrated at the ceremony are in their third year of the six-year Pharm.D. program. For student Julia A. Otruba, the event heralded ‘the halfway point” for herself and her classmates as they pursue their doctoral degrees. “This is a reminder that while we are in the middle of our education now, the end goal is not simply earning a degree. The end goal is a promise between us and our future patients to provide the highest quality care.”

“As we live in the era of COVID-19,” said fellow student George Fahmy, “we see how our health-care workers, including pharmacists, risk their lives to save others’ lives. When my classmates and I recite the oath of commitment at the ceremony, we assert our dedication and passion for the profession.”

In accepting their white coats, the students “enthusiastically accept both the responsibility and the accountability for patient-care outcomes,” said John M. Conry ’96P, ’98Pharm.D., Interim Dean of CPHS and Clinical Professor in the College’s Department of Clinical Health Professions.

“It also means that you will need to accept responsibility and accountability for your own educational outcomes,” he continued. “We are here as faculty, administration, and staff of the College to educate you and guide you down your own unique path. But at the end of the day, just as in the professional arena, you are ultimately responsible for your own success.”

“I know you are ready for this leap in your educational life,” Dr. Conry added. “I applaud you for your past successes, and I look forward to contributing to your future.”