Incoming physician assistant students at UTMB received their white coats in a ceremony that welcomed them into their new program of professional study.

The highlight of the ceremony, which was held at 6 p.m., Friday, Aug. 3, at Levin Hall on the UTMB campus, was when the 89 members of the class of 2014 donned their white coats for the first time.

“The ceremony symbolically marks the beginning of a person’s career as a health care professional,” said  Elizabeth Protas, dean of UTMB’s School of Health Professions. “It’s a significant milestone on their path to a very important role in the new health care landscape.”
Protas was the keynote speaker at the event. Dr. Robert Beach, UTMB’s assistant dean for educational development and director of the division of nephrology and hypertension, cloaked each student with a white coat.
The white coat ceremony is a relatively new tradition in the health care professions. The first white coat ceremony was held in 1993 at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. The tradition was soon adopted by allied health professionals including physician assistants, physical therapists, dentists, optometrists and veterinarians.
UTMB began holding white coat ceremonies in 1996.
UTMB’s department of physician assistant studies offers a master’s degree program that prepares professionals to practice medicine, with the supervision of a physician, in a wide range of settings, including primary care, specialty clinics, the emergency department and the operating room. PAs are invaluable members of the health care team who conduct medical histories and physical examinations, order and interpret diagnostic  tests, diagnose and treat health conditions, perform procedures and provide patient education and counseling services. All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow PAs to practice and prescribe medications.